In Utero

Day 0–39

You look elegant as ever in the black and white photographs, circa 1972, that hang on my bedroom wall. Your piercing eyes hold my stare and I’m captured by the effortless style that drapes your youthful figure. I imagine you danced a lot on the day that these photos were taken.

To my memory, you were always dancing.

Lighting up our summer barbecues with grand entrances and enchanting belly dance performances. Looking up from my seat on the concrete garage floor, I was mesmerized by the way your fingers clashed the miniature symbols in sequence with the movement of your hips. Before going to sleep at night my four year old self would stand in front of the mirror, giggling at my attempts to mimic the artistry of your movements.

I admired your every talent.

You, author of six books, who leaned into your roots using the craft of language and food to celebrate and broaden the lense on Arab culture.

You, an oncology nurse, whose balance of humour and kindness filled the hearts of your patients and families with gratitude.

You, a master knitter, the creator of countless works of sweater art; grapes and cherries, liquorice all-sorts, a jungle scene, to name just a few.

You, my aunt and my Godmother, a woman who taught me to love fiercely and care deeply about my own unique forms of self-expression.

I will always remember the time you rocked me in bed as I wailed my way through the pain of one of my darkest times after losing Paul at the age of 31. It’s only since you’ve been gone that I’ve come to learn the depths of some of your darkest times.

One in particular that came long before your life was turned upside down by his repeated deceits. Before you upped and left your home across the ocean in London to care for grandma. Before the tumour that would take your life was discovered.

I’ve heard only small pieces of the story from my mom. She received a phone call in Canada to say you had been rushed to the hospital in Jeddah. I’ve asked her many times how old I would have been at the time but she doesn’t recall. My guess is that I was six or seven? Patrick told her that your pregnancy had suffered complications that were life threatening to you. It was ectopic, implanted in the fine walls of your fallopian tubes. She said that in order to save your life, they had to remove your reproductive organs making a future pregnancy impossible.

I’ve played the scene as I imagine it over and over in my mind. You were there with neither your mother nor your sisters to comfort and cry with you. Did you cry? I wonder who you spoke of it with. Or were you encouraged to just move on? How did your heart survive? Did the broken pieces ever find their way back together?

I think of you constantly as I navigate my own complex journey to try to conceive. Wishing you were here. Believing you are with me. Dancing from up above, holding me tightly, helping to mend my own broken heart and reminding me to focus on gratitude.

Maybe you have reunited with the spirit of the child that touched your life in such a profound way.

I write this in prayer that your immortal soul has healed and that I may continue to walk this path with your blessings and your company.

Painting by Chantey Dayal
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