Damascus Journal: The moment before we die

Razan Zeitoune

July 9, 2013

Reflections from Damascus

To Fida’ al-Baali.

 

One does not wake up and discover that one’s eye is gone. An eye that had been blinking only seconds before one fell asleep does not simply disappear and is not replaced by smooth skin as though it had never been there.

 

If this were the case, it would be desperately terrifying and sad. The sheer possibility of this happening would render one hysterical regarding the absurdity of life. One would eventually wish for losing one’s eye or having one’s limbs fall off one after another instantly rather than for experiencing the anxiety of seeing them fall off one by one over days, months, and years.

 

This might explain why Abdallah volunteered to lie down in his friend’s grave under the pretext of making sure it was wide enough for his martyred friend’s body, saying: “They asked me if the grave would fit, so I laid down in it and moved and said, ‘yes’. And I cried… Jihad Shehabi, my brother, I made a mistake… Heaven is not wide enough for you to fit in it, let alone a grave.”

 

This might also explain the terrifying impulse that prompts me to run in the path of artillery shells, to get it over with.

 

What other way is there to deal with the sudden disappearance of those around us? What black magic is it that has a friend, with whom we had been only hours earlier, be put to rest in a grave, her body cold and her stories, laugh, and words buried underground? Our dates, meetings, and time spent waiting become totally valueless.

 

This is not only about friends or even those who cross our lives without expecting that we remember them. This is about the antipathetic neighbor, the kid on the next block who has long bothered us with his boisterous playing, the gasoline vendor who charged double prices, the unknown lady down the street: Anyone can disappear in the blink of an eye and before we even realize he is gone, we find ourselves staring with a cold face at some video.

 

Rather than mourn this person as he deserves to be mourned, rather than observe a moment of silence as a sign of respect, we find ourselves thinking about whose turn will be next, where, how, and why. Will it be in an hour? Before lunch time? At coffee time? Will it be during a meeting explaining how patient and brave we have been until one more person falls, and how hypocritical and ugly the world looks when picking up the pieces of our fallen ones to bury them and us along the way?

 

How can we deal with this loss and our worries about future losses without losing our minds? There is no need to worry, as everyone will die! It is a fact of life, except that it is happening faster now, as though it were a giant machine operating on full speed.

 

There is no need to worry, Fida‘. As your mom bids you farewell while touching your cold face and saying, ‘Go to sleep my love’… rest in peace.

 

This article has been translated from the original Arabic.

found: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/reportsfeatures/damascus-journal-the-moment-before-we-die

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