This article has previously been posted on our site but with October being cancer awareness month we felt that this heartfelt piece deserved to be put to the forefront for anyone who missed it or wanted to reread.
When I was asked to write something by the Muslim Mamas admin team, I think I knew almost immediately who and what it would be about. Every so often the death of a stranger hits you and you struggle to make sense of it, or you do make sense of it because that’s what our faith teaches us to do, but you struggle to ever forget.
Yours was one such death Fatma. I do not even remember when you really came into my consciousness, I just remember you bravely sharing your cancer story and me being incredibly moved by it, as were many other mamas. I personally was moved for various reasons: I too am a cancer ‘warrior’ (uh! That word, whatever it means in cancer terms), you were so so young, and you were the mother of a young child and appeared so full of life. Cancer was a huge nuisance here, you had so much of life to live still, in fact you were just starting.
I will tell you what I liked especially about you Fatma, you were honest and you were raw and you were open about cancer in a way that was so refreshing and enlightening and humbling. In cultures like ours where illnesses such as this were a thing of secrecy (sometimes even shame), your openness was an absolute breath of fresh air. And I think this really appealed to many other people as you steadily gained a loyal and prayerful support base on Muslim Mamas. We all became invested in your cancer journey and we were willing, urging, cheering and praying you on to good health, alas! It was not as Allah has willed. Sadly, that cancer eventually took you in the end. Insha Allah all of the suffering you shared with us is kaffara for you. I will tell you something though, you demystified the beast that is cancer. You showed us all how to face this disease with grace. You stared it down, you were a true warrior princess.
To write this, I had to go dig up our messages, you and I. I reached out to you first and you responded, really appreciative of Muslim Mamas and their support; and you told me that you thought you were scared and that you had told yourself it’s okay to be scared, and that you felt like you “were running a marathon and nearing the finish”. How you were just spending more time with your beloved son and creating lots of memories. We went on to chat many more times but never actually spoke.
I am glad and honoured that you chatted with me Fatma, and allowed me into your world. Our messages stopped abruptly; I messaged a few more times but I did not get a response. I suspected that engaging with so many people in that state was hard for you. So, I followed your updates instead, and added you as friend on Facebook. Quietly urging you on.
I remember the time you passed, around the 6th of December 2016, I was in America and it was the anniversary of my own Father’s passing and I remember telling my sister Fatima (also a Muslim mama) that you had died, it left us both very sad. Many on Muslim Mamas mourned you and many of us felt your death deeply, it was collective grief for us, it truly felt like losing a family member. I guess we have indeed become family, one ummah, with a shared sense of ‘ummahnity’ as I like to say.
Three years on, we still remember you, we wonder about your family, especially your son. We hope he knows that you were loved deeply by many strangers who were touched by your deep faith and fortitude. Every so often I visit your page, I have left a couple of messages because I hope your family sees that you touched many lives, and that you have not been forgotten.
Death is inevitable, yet each time it feels new and stings deep. This is a requiem for you Fatma, a small act of remembrance from us all on Muslim Mamas. We will always remember you, you are now a beautiful part of the tapestry that is this space that we have come to love.
May Jannah be yours Fatma, may it be ours too.
By Dr. Hadiza Kere AbdulRahman
Hadiza is a lecturer in Inclusive Education. She is a daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend. Hadiza is deeply informed and formed by her Muslim subjectivity and it is this that she carries in all her dealings and as the blueprint for striving to be a good human.
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
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