My mum, your mamma, became ill when I was 19 years old . At the tender age of 21, I married your dad. I planned and implemented my own wedding. In those days, circa 1994, parents did everything for their kids, well, Muslim parents, the community that we belong to, in most ways.
Mamma was a visitor to my wedding, and when I adopted both you and Zayd, and then birthed Rameez and Mikaeel, she looked on, like a visitor. She was very ill, my heart was tormented, disappointed and angry, I was young and naïve, and didn’t understand the frailty of illness or life and death. I mourned that I did my ” confinements “, on my own. I learnt to bathe all of you babies, and feed and soothe all of you, as well as myself, a new mother, on my own.
I learnt to cook from recipe books, the infamous ” Indian Delights ” still holds a special place in my heart, as do some special aunt’s who I would call, or visit to help teach me how to make certain dishes. There was no internet at that time, so recipes were always written in little books, which you still use, and did, late last night, baking my chocolate brownies recipe, to satisfy everyone’s late night cravings.
In those early days of marriage, I wanted to please your dad with delicious meals, and had no one to ask to teach me how to cook, so ” Mrs Zuleika Mayet ” did. I still have The Indian Delights, maybe you will pass it onto your daughter one day .
When my cancer was diagnosed, especially when it progressed to a terminal disease, my mind went onto overload. I needed to teach you all that my mum didn’t teach me, so that you would not feel alone, stranded, insecure, when I was not around anymore.
I needed to teach you life lessons that I would normally have let the course of life teach you, I needed to teach you about etiquette, and ethics, about being kind, and extending your heart. I needed to teach you about the beauty of cooking, let you experience and feel the intensity of family love through the labour of cooking. How to get intoxicated with spices, and their aromas and to watch your family smile as they sit down together to a delicious and soul warming meal, put together by you.
In that endeavour, oh I have exceeded my dreams, for you have learnt it all at this young age of 21. The most authentic of our mother-tongue cuisine, you have already mastered, with swift hands and a smiling face. Remember daughter, food is love, love is food.
Most importantly, I needed to teach you to love yourself, so deeply, that you will never, ever doubt yourself. Whether during the course of love, work, or simply, life. Love yourself, know your intrinsic worth. Know that you are stunningly beautiful on the inside, and very much so, on the outside as well, a cliché, but one that can be truthful. Please look into the mirror, and look at your beauty, see your kindness, see your softness, see your strength.
At times, I may seem to be fighting with you, dear daughter, I am fighting for you, to be you. To be at your best, to allow for the worst. To get up after you fall, and to seize the day. To push through every ceiling and door that you want to push through. To always hold respect, even to those who don’t respect you. To draw boundaries, and to firmly say “NO”, when you feel violated in any way. To me, to your dad, to your brother, to anyone actually.
To always make time for whom you love. For nothing, no career, no chores, is more important than serving love, with time. Never be too busy, to fill your heart. For without love, the cup of life is empty.
Be polite, be kind, be loving, but be firm, be dignified, live with morals, integrity and dignity always. It will stand you in good stead, always.
Know that you were born, not from my belly, but from my heart. And I am big on Heart, my daughter. Never doubt my love for you, when I am not around to drum it into your head.
You are not perfect, I am not perfect, but we are mother and daughter
I love you,
By Naadia BE
Naadia is a 49-year-old single mum of four kids aged between 15 to 21. In March, 2016, Naadia was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer on her left breast. A year later, the cancer had spread to the rest of the body. Unfortunately, the cancer is now terminal and there’s no cure. In Naadia’s own words. she’s just ‘buying time’.
Nadia has been an advocate for breast cancer awareness since diagnosis. In 2017, a few days after a hospital stay and stage 4 diagnosis, Naadia was awarded a unique award called ‘The Women of Wonder Awards’ for her outreach into the community and raising awareness for breast cancer. She’s been interviewed by all genres of media, local to her where she’s based in South Africa, as well as internationally.
If you or anyone you know are worried about prolonged and continuous symptoms for 3 weeks or more, contact your GP immediately. Remember, your NHS wants to see you. For more information, please visit nhs.uk/cancersymptoms
To listen to Naadia’s emotional story of fighting cancer, click here:
All guest writer articles come from our Muslim Mamas community or from our network of supporters. Some contribute one-off stories; some contribute as anonymous mamas. All experiences and opinions are those of the writers.