A Final Khodahafez
A couple of days ago, an elder auntie passed away leaving behind a feeling of emptiness within many of us. She was a beautiful soul. Even with her physical aches and pains, her difficult financial situation, her worries and stresses, she had a positive energy about her. I will truly miss her, as will many others.
We went to the Masjed for the pre-burial ceremony. We waited in one of the large praying rooms while the washing (Ghusl) and the shrouding (Kafan) of the deceased took place. An hour and a half later, once the ritual had been completed, we (the women only) were finally allowed to see her to say our final khodahafez.
The small group of us entered the brightly-lit room, filled with a pungent smell of camphor. And there she was, lying on a stretcher-like table, all wrapped up, head to toe, in a white sheet with only her face visible. She looked so peaceful, like she was in a deep sleep.
The crying had begun upon entering the room. Black-garbed bodies of women were moving around her helplessly. Bawling. Sobbing. Holding one another. We took one last look and left the room. Closer family members stayed behind for an extended final goodbye.
We returned to the praying room and waited. Earlier, we had found out that the Imam who was to lead the funeral prayers would not be able to make it. The only other knowledgeable person to do this was an elder auntie, who was uncomfortable with the idea. We were in a predicament. The only other option was to carry on with the prayers as a group - with no particular person leading. And this was clearly, not the way to go either.
We were sitting in our grief, some of us wondering how to proceed with the prayers, others too emotional to even worry about that. We heard a loud wail and knew the coffin was on its way. The doors in the back end of the room opened up with two men carrying the coffin. They laid it on the stand situated in the front part of the room, facing the direction of the Qibleh.
We rose from our seats. Then, the front doors opened and a man, who looked like an Imam, walked towards the coffin in a hurried manner. He spoke to us in broken Farsi, and based on certain words he used, I gathered he was an Urdu speaker; the similarity in the languages helped him communicate with us. He asked us to line up in rows, facing the coffin, men in the front, and women in the back. He stood in front of us, and without hesitation, we began.
After the ceremony was over, and we were scattered outside the front doors of the Masjed, I overheard an uncle explaining something regarding the Imam who had lead the prayers. Apparently, the Imam was on his way home, when something told him to turn the car around and head back to the Masjed. He felt that there was some unfinished business he had to deal with, not knowing what. Upon his arrival at the Masjed, he was told about a funeral ceremony without an Imam to lead the prayers.
He had arrived at the exact time we needed him. It may have been a strange coincidence; but I would like to think my auntie had something to do with it. Who knows. What I do know is that she was (and will continue to be) loved by so many of us. We will miss her very much.