Sunday, March 01, 2009
The other side
Tonight I told Leila that "Grandma" Zahra, who she adopted as part of our family when we were last in Tunisia, had gone to be with God. "She died?" she asked me, as tears filled her eyes. "I wanted to go to the house with her, and see her," she cried. "Me too." I explained that she had been sick, and in pain. Leila asked if she was older or younger than the grandma at church, and I said she was younger, but she had been sick.
Zahra had been a friend of H for a long time, but I first met her a year and half ago when we spent two months in Tunisia. I was curious about this woman that H was friends with, but she immediately made me and the children her friends as well. Leila began to call her grandma that first night, I think, and she accepted the title happily, as she had several grandkids already. We went to her apartment for breakfast, and she came to the beach at our place with her sister and nephews. Another day we drove several hours into the countryside on one of the hottest days of the summer, returning late at night. She and I talked and talked for hours- she was full of interesting stories, both of her own life and of Tunisia. The children were entertained with stories she made up just for them, and she gave them full attention. She took Leila off overnight to visit her brother and his young daughter. Then she got sick, and somehow I knew that the cancer she'd battled before was back. We spent one more afternoon together shortly before we left, and made plans to visit her in London or have her visit us here- but I was sad when we said goodbye.
She went to China to do some experimental treatments, and they helped, but not enough. She lived for another year and a bit- she died October 31. We just found out yesterday through facebook.
We were so blessed to know her- I just wish we'd gotten to know her for a longer time.