5th October 2002
Six years ago, on Saturday October 5th 1996, at about a quarter to three, Rashid died in my arms. I do not know the exact time anymore. Everything went too fast to have a look at the clock. Karim left at half past two, Rashid's father was supposed to come at three o'clock. In between that Rashid died. He chose his own time, his own moment.
After he died the fifth of October never became a "regular" day any more. Every year at the fifth of October I want to go to the graveyard and try to be there at a quarter to three. I make sure Rashid's grave is neat and clean before the fifth of October: I take care of the flowers or plant new plants for the winter. It is the last place where I can put down my care and love for Rashid.
I have never known that visiting a grave could give so much relief and good feelings. Even long before I even knew Rashid was ill and was going to die in my ignorance I used to say: "Flowers for a dead person, nonsense, the dead person himself has no use for them anymore". There is no lesser truth than this one. I myself get a good feeling to put down flowers on Rashid's grave, to bring a windmill from my holiday trips or a souvenir and put that on Rashid's grave, or a small pebble I find on the beach, a chestnut, but also a nice figurine. From every holiday trip I also try to bring Karim, my eldest son, a souvenir gift, so I am always looking for things I can put down on Rashid's grave. I know that the things I buy will not last forever; they will break in the freezing winters or the paint will come off in the heavy rains. Broken things can be replaced, like I replace the flowers every week. It gives me an opportunity to put down something new. Thus, Rashid's grave looks different in every season, but also my ideas change throughout the years. Right after Rashid died I put down stuffed plush cuddly animals for him, but now I know that putting down plush has no use and I look for things that were meant to be out in the rain. But also I put down McDonald's Happy Meal surprise gifts many times, because Rashid loved to eat at McDonald's and collect their Happy Meal toys.
With every shower of rain, with every storm I think of Rashid. Would everything be allright on his grave? Wouldn't anything blow away? And once I have seen that everything is allright I calm down again.
For many people the 5th of October is a normal day. Many times at my work I have to fill in the date of the 5th of October. In the beginning I tried to avoid that and I filled in the 4th or the 6th. Even now I feel a small electric shock up and down my spine when I see the date. For everybody else life goes on, but for me time stood still at the 5th of October 1996 and life has never been the same ever since. Even though I seem to be very calm I still take the day off at the fifth of October, so I can spend time with Rashid on this day.
This year I did not need to take a day off, because the fifth of October was on a Saturday, just like 6 years ago. The circle closes. I think back of that last month a lot, that last day, those last minutes. They are engraved in my mind. Every time when I think of the moment that Rashid lay dead in my arms, I feel the same emotions I felt in that moment: hurt, despair, the feeling there was no turning back.
The past few years, especially in the days before the 5th of October, I was very upset, but this year I was very calm. Would time have made me peaceful and calm? Due to recent events ( we worked hard to move to another home) I did not have much time to feel my pain. It is not that I don't think of Rashid: Rashid is in my thoughts both day and night. Every day I put on the necklace with my locket in which I keep a picture of Rashid and a lock of his hair that I cut right after he died. Every day I put on my watch with Rashid's picture in it. They are rituals that belong to getting dressed every morning. Without my locket and watch I do not want to leave the house. Every night before going to sleep I stop in front of my glass case, in which I keep so many of Rashid's favorite things and toys, unused.
My watch and locket that I wear every day
Rashid's picture and lock of hair inside the locket
It was not different this year on the fifth of October. Every year before this year I planted new plants for the winter. This Summer I had planted little African flowers, which were all eaten the week after by either the rabbits, hedgehogs or the snails. A week after that I planted some other flowery plants, which were still beautiful now. I would be a waste to throw them all away. So I bought flower bulbs (hopefully they will grow into beautiful blue flowers) and I planned to plant them on the morning of the 5th of October. Unfortunately, when I got up that morning after a long, restless night, it was raining cats and dogs. I felt tired and miserable. Why hadn't I gone to Rashid's grave a day earlier when the sun was shining? I had only had to take on hour off from work! My wish to do all this on the fifth of October had been too great, and so was my trust that it would be nice weather on the fifth of October as well, like it was 6 years ago.
It felt good to receive email from people who wished me all the best and told me they would burn a candle for Rashid: the feeling that a candle would be burning in many houses for my little boy touched me a lot.
I decided to take a long hot bath,
which made me feel a little better. And after that I went to Rashid's grave
after all. I just had to be there at a quarter to three. I had agreed to meet
Karim there. Because he needed some time alone with his brother I decided not to
leave before two o'clock. Like that Karim would have his moment alone with
Rashid and I would still be there at the time that I wanted. Eventually I had to
hurry to be there in time, just like 6 years ago. Even then I let Karim
influence my time. Six years ago Karim could not stand watching his brother die
and he wanted to leave all of a sudden. I knew Rashid was dying and wanted to
stay with him, but Karim wanted me to accompany him to the front door to
see him out. I did so
and ran back to Rashid, whom I lifted from his bed to keep him on my lap for the
last hours of his life. Unfortunately there were no more hours, only a few
minutes. His death came too fast; even though I knew he was dying I did not
expect it to be over so soon.
I felt all these emotions again the moment I walked onto the graveyard, armed with the most beautiful bunch of yellow sunflowers and blue lilacs. Karim was already waiting for me in the rain. I was just in time. Together we put the flowers in a vase, burnt six candles, one for every year that Rashid was no longer with us. We ate a KitKat chocolate and put one down for Rashid, because Rashid loved them so much. Also I put down the figurine from the little bear with the blue cap that I brought on my last holiday trip.
There were three other bunches of flowers: red roses, white carnations and yellow chrysanthemums. I knew Rashid's grandmother put down one bunch of flowers, but I did not know who put down the other two. There was no card. I looked almost festivelike and I was pleased that there were more people who had thought of Rashid today.
It felt so good to be there at Rashid's grave; unfortunately the bad weather forced me to leave quickly. We were soaking wet. I had to say goodbye, the flower bulbs were still in my handbag. The weather was too bad to plant flower bulbs. The only place where Karim and I could go was McDonald's. There we had a hamburger together and hot chocolate to get warm again. We talked about Rashid for a long time. I had a stong feeling that Rashid was very close to us, he was right in our midst in that restaurant.
Once back home there was a bunch of flowers for me. On the card it said: "Happy Birthday." It felt like a very bad joke. The flowers were meant to be for the former tenant of our house, who has her birthday exactly on the fifth of October. Also the next door neighbor celebrated his birthday on that same day: there was a party in the house next door on the same day that Rashid's life came to an end, on the same day I felt so empty and sad. I went to bed and started to cry: I cried myself to sleep, I missed Rashid so much....
On Wednesday the 9th of October the weather was fine. I decided to leave early from work and plant the flower bulbs on Rashid's grave. Six years ago Rashid was buried on this day. At that time too it was nice weather exept when we drove to the graveyard and it started to rain for a little while. Everybody said it was Rashid playing his last trick on us and so I felt it too. After everybody had left after having had a cup of coffee and a KitKat chocolate, Karim and I and the undertaker went back to Rashid's grave and removed all plastic covers from the bunches of flowers and arranged everything in a nice way. That is why this year it was very symbolical that I planted flower bulbs on Rashid's grave on the 9th of October. I wanted to stay longer, I felt so relaxed and calm, but the graveyard closes at four o'clock. The disadvantage of a guarded graveyard is that it closes at a certain hour, but the advantage is that there is always somebody watching over Rashid.
The 6 year circle without Rashid is closed. How many years will have to pass before Rashid and I will see each other again and stay together eternally....?