A Supermoon to Commemorate My Nanimaa’s Death

As life wears on, I meet more people who are getting married, having kids, getting divorced, and dying. Two years ago, today, my grandmother died. It’s neat that it falls on the same day as the first supermoon in 33 years.

I didn’t know my grandmother all that well. I don’t have any regrets about this, but maybe I should. My sister and grandmother were very close; until her dying day, the second room in my grandmother’s apartment was referred to as, “Shemine’s room”. My sister only stayed there for maybe four months of the roughly 40 years that my grandmother lived there.

My grandmother died of cancer. Third time’s a charm, as they say. From what I gather, she lived a pretty full life. She was 85. The cancer was likely the only thing that slowed her down.

I wouldn’t say that she lived an easy life. She lost her husband when she was only 40. She moved to Canada, to Toronto, in the early ’70s, where she learned how to type and worked as a secretary. She learned how to drive a car in Canada when she was in her 70s. Back home, she drove a tractor on the family farm, where they raised chickens and dairy cows.

Before there was a mosque in Toronto, her apartment served as one. When a mosque was built, she would make and bring mani (roti) to khane (mosque) every day. She would make change for people who brought bills. She also sat, as a representative of God, to receive peoples’ prayers on special occasions.

She was a woman of undying faith. I remember her praying for hours, sitting with her eyes closed on her rocking chair, with a tashbi (rosary), mouthing the words she was sending to her God.

I remember one year while I was at school in Montreal, she waited until my birthday to register for a very special religious ceremony. That’s all the detail I have, but I understand that it’s a ceremony of extreme significance in the Ismaili faith. I only know this because, after the semester was over, I took the train from Montreal to Toronto to meet my mother who was visiting at the time.

This was my grandmother, though, she loved her God, Allah, represented by the Imam, the Aga Khan.

Here's my sister and Nanimaa chatting. We visited her a lot after she was diagnosed with her third bout with cancer.
Here’s my sister and Nanimaa chatting. We visited her a lot after she was diagnosed with her third bout with cancer. Photo credit: Shemine Gulamhusein

 

While she loved her grandchildren, as a grandmother would, I don’t know that she liked all of us. I’m convinced that my sister was her favourite of us all, and I think she was alright with me. I never asked but I have a sense. My sister and her shared a reciprocal care for each other (as shown in the photo above, taken while my grandmother was dying).

The only photo that my grandmother had of me was the one of me with the first fish that I ever caught on a fly line with a fly that I had tied. To be fair, it was one of my proudest moments.

There is one thing that I never did: I never talked to my grandmother about anything of any significance. In fact, I never told her that I love(d) her. It’s hard to like someone you’ve never really talked to.

It doesn’t matter now, I suppose.

What I really lost when my grandmother died was a connection to my past — a history. Even with all of the changes that I’m living through — the marriages, births, divorces, etc. — losing my connection to my history is the most irrevocable. It doesn’t come back around, in a different space and time, like the supermoon.

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