I didn’t have anyone that I wanted to get married to, but because he asked, I could not refuse. He was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and he was at Stage 4. For me, that was the part of my life where I had to grow up and be an adult. I didn’t have to go through an arranged marriage, but I was not ready to be married.
When we found out that he had cancer, I was in my final year and was enjoying my life as a senior in university. This was the year where I thought I was going to hang out and have fun with my friends. This was the year that I was going to create those unforgettable moments in life where I would cringe and laugh at later in my life. This was the year I was going to rule the world before heading out into the world of responsibilities.
Yet all that was dashed away, with just a single word – cancer. He was dying and as any firstborn, I wanted to make the last moments in my fathers’ life a happy one for him.
I remember when I would attend classes while towing my almost 2 year old brother to class with me. I remember buying him Happy Meals so that he would be quiet in class and not disrupt it with his babblings and horsing around. Alhamdulillah my lecturers were pretty awesome and understanding. They allowed me to be at the back of the class for lectures, as long as my brother was quiet. I guess Allah swt plans things for us in mysterious ways, for I do not know how I managed to keep an almost 2 year old quiet in class, but I guess with His will, I did.
When my father said he wanted to see one of his daughters married, for me, there was no doubt as to who he meant. My sister was still in high school, plus I was the eldest. There was no way he meant her. What would I do? I had no clue as to what to expect of a married life. I had no one that I wanted to be in a long-term relationship with that would last forever.
What would anyone in my place do?
I turned to my best friend. I asked him if he would marry me, because of my dying father’s wish. He said he’ll think about it and let me know the next day.
Pretty straight forward. Pretty set. Pretty simple.
I guess if He wills it, it will happen. If it is meant to be, it will be.
Sure enough, a month after that, I got married to my best friend. It made my father happy. The days leading to my nikah, he seemed to get better. He seemed to be stronger. He seemed happier. That is what I would like to believe and keep in my heart and mind.
His friends came for my reception, because many knew he was sick. Friends from all around the world came to my reception – not because they knew me and because it was an auspicious day for me – but for my father. To see him before it was too late. To connect with him again before it would not be possible. To make him happy.
I knew as a daughter, I did the right thing to make him happy. To make him smile and have that moment before he passed away, to meet the faces of families and friends. To see his daughter married. To live another day filled with joy and laughter with those that matter to him.
A few days after the reception, his health started deteriorating. He collapsed and from there his health spiraled down. Exactly a month after my reception, he passed away.
Never a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. Never a day that goes by I regret doing what I did to make him happy.
Fast forward a few years later, things started to break down between my husband and myself. It got to a point where we couldn’t be in a marriage together anymore. After 5 years of marriage and two children, I am a divorcee.
I ranted. I raged. I was angry.
I tried to make everyone happy. I tried to live my life how people told me to. I tried everything to stop feeling sad and depressed.
But above all, I was angry with God.
I did all that I was supposed to. I was a good daughter. I tried to be a good wife. I worked hard to balance work and being a good mother.
After I was divorced, I tried to have my children with me. I went to court to gain custody of my children. The court said I would not be able to provide my children with the livelihood that they would get from their father. It was easy for them to say that, because he went back to live with his parents, who would help him look after my children, whereas I was living alone in a different city, trying to earn my living, working a 8am-5pm job.
That broke my heart and added to my despair. It built up inside me where I became constantly angry, constantly sad, constantly defensive. I started to withdraw inside myself. I started to slowly drift away from connecting to God. I started to slowly stop asking Him for guidance and help.
I felt lost. I felt alone. I felt miserable. I felt lonely.
I remember how that day felt. It was a hot and humid day. The breeze was still. Not a leaf trembled nor moved. I was waiting for a friend to come pick me up because we had plans to catch a movie. I was killing time, playing with my iPhone. I don’t know how or why, but I opened my Quran app on it. I knew I hadn’t read it in a while, so when it opened, the first sentence that I read was the Al-Baqarah, ayat 153.
“O ye who believe! Seek help with patient and perseverance and prayer: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.”
Tears came to my eyes. All those years of anger and unhappiness seemed to melt away. I felt angry, but this time with myself, for betraying myself. For distancing myself from Him. For thinking that I was alone and empty, when He has never left me. I let myself drift far from Him. Not the other way around. I let myself wallow in that anger and self-pity.
I made wudhu and prayed for the first time in a long time.
I felt at peace. I knew in my heart that my journey will not be an easy one. I knew in my heart that I still have more challenges to come and to face. And I knew in my heart that He would not leave me alone to face all that He places in my path. He would not test me beyond more than what I can take and as long as I remember to reach out to Him, He will not forsake me.
I learned on that day that life will never be easy. Life will always be a winding path that sometimes is shadowed by huge trees and clouds and thorns scattered here and there; potholes and ditches and sometimes a smooth path. Yet, even through all those challenges and above all, the bright sun will always be there to guide me. To light my path and allow me to develop and grow. And even in the darkness, should night time fall, the shining moon will still be there, softly guiding my path, only should I seek that light. The choice is mine.
Soraya Ahyaudin is soon to embark on her journey for a second Masters in Public Diplomacy at University of Southern California this Fall. She is a bookworm at heart, with a love for sci-fi and romance. She spends her days looking for the answer in understanding the million dollar question, why can’t we all just get along, through the world of culture where all our differences makes us connected. Follow her on Twitter.