The value of illness

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wr wb, peeps!

So my mother recently began experiencing nerve problems in her hand. They started with silly things – dropping plates, slipping and cutting herself when cooking.But now it is almost completely non-functional. It just hangs there, waiting for relief.

And it hurts her too.

Now her daily activities are no longer as simple as they used to be – very often, she needs assistance dressing, cooking, cleaning. We have been helping her as much as we can, but obviously we have also been looking desperately for a cure.

We have been now around the block (literally – there are four clinics in a few blocks’ radius here in Dubai) looking for a diagnosis. They got nothin’.

We went to Sri Lanka. After a flurry of painful, embarrassing and sometimes excruciating tests – for the wallet and the heart- nothing there either. After this trying ordeal, I flew back in to Dubai last weekend to get back to work. But my father says that my mother needs me now as he is preparing to come back to our businesses.

So out I go to Sri Lanka again.

Illness is a funny thing. It’s like an unwanted visitor, taking residence not in your house, your room, your closet or your bathroom, but somewhere else, somewhere more sacred – your body.

But illness is also an incredible teacher. Illness has taught me that I cannot be truly compassionate unless I break down the barrier between my mother and I. ‘Tough love’ never worked during my illness and it won’t work during hers. ‘Tough love’ usually happens when you can’t accept that the other person is in pain and is infringing on your life; I think it’s an ultimately selfish form of compassion.

Yes, we have had our moments – in fact, we continue to have those moments even as I help her on with her shalwar kameez. But now I understand. I understand the worry and the pain and the suffering, the “What will happen if I die? Who will take care of you now?” Because when I left her to come back to Dubai (a much tinier change than DEATH), I was thinking, “What will Mama do without me now?” It’s the same thing, just different hearts.

Illness takes no prisoners. It sits and it stays till you take action. But you can never be sure if it’ll work or not. As in all things in life, you are never sure. The end result is with Allah (SWT). Tawakkul and Yaqeen are such precious resources at a time like this. It’s the difference between spiritual death and the energy to take the next step.

People always say that you don’t know what you can do until you do it. And it’s usually those big things they are talking about – writing a novel, building a house, lifting a truck with your bare hands.

But illness makes you super-human. It’s a paradox, but those finest of human qualities – patience, strength, faith – finds their deepest and truest expression when the firm vessel they are housed in slowly begins to fade.

I can’t think how many times I have looked my mother in the eyes and told her, “Just a little while longer. It’s all going to be over soon.”

And she has said to me, “Okay.” Probably the first time in years we have agreed on anything.

You think you’ve scratched the bottom of the barrel, but suddenly there’s just a little more left. You can go on just one more day. And maybe today, you’ll figure this out.

I think the best thing that has come out of this illness is that my mother and I are renegotiating the terms of our relationship – at least Insha Allah I hope so. We’ve kind of turned the mother-child relationship on its head a little, and insha Allah, that’s exactly what we need to move over the impasse in communications we’ve hit recently.

It’s a delicate process. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Another rather obvious lesson illness has taught me – jolly well exercise and eat right or bad things will happen. I’m serious.

May Allah (SWT) keep all of us healthy Ameen!

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy Muslimah

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7 thoughts on “The value of illness

  1. Really great reminder mashAllah. I can relate to a lot what you said from when my brother was being treated for cancer (Alhamdulillah, he’s fine now). Illness is such a shock, but it teaches you so much in such a short time. I must be difficult for your mother, your family and you to not even have a diagnosis, but inshAllah everything will work out soon. I’ll be making dua for ya’ll =]

    1. Jazakhallah khair katheeran brother for your du’as. Alhamdulillah for your brother’s recovery – it’s true you don’t know what you have till it’s gone. I’ll keep y’all posted on my cantankerous old mam 🙂

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