Posted on 01/15/16
by Annalise Raziq
When I told my story on October 24th, 2015 in Boston, my father was still alive. He was ill. He was on oxygen 100% of the time and dialysis three times a week. But he was still full of the same steely determination and fire that I had known all my life.
When I told that story, and spent so much time before that reflecting on my past and my relationship with my dad – which shaped my foundation in profound ways – I did not know he would be gone a month and a half later. When I was interviewed for the podcast, he was still in his recliner in St. Louis, still working as a research chemist from his armchair, still calling me often. We were still planning what middle-eastern bakery I would try next in Chicago, when I would next come for a visit, bringing with me another sample for him to assess on our hunt for the perfect knafeh.
When I was in St. Louis on November 5th, taking him to a doctor’s appointment and planning where we would have lunch after (food is inextricably entwined in almost all my memories of my father), I didn’t know we only had another month or so. He’d been thinking about a Mexican restaurant that was near the doctor’s office but he couldn’t remember the name. We drove around before the appointment and finally found it, both of us like two little kids playing a road trip game (“I spy with my little eye… a dry cleaner. A Burger King. A… Mexican restaurant!!! We win!”). But when the appointment was over, he was too tired to sit in a restaurant, and I realized suddenly we had both been dreaming to think that could happen. Wishful thinking. So I ran in to order fajitas to go, while he waited in the car with the oxygen tank. I knew he was starving so I brought out a bag of chips and some salsa for him to munch on while we waited. Fifteen minutes later, when I got back to the car with the food, he had already mowed through half the bag of chips and I was feeling bad, realizing how hungry he was. But he was in good spirits, even though our ride home through traffic would now take an additional half hour. As I drove, he said, “You must be really hungry too” and even though I told him I was okay until we got home, he said, “I will feed you.” And the whole ride home, he carefully picked the biggest tortilla chips out of the bag and artfully put hunks of salsa on each chip, timing the hand-off with the traffic and warning me about “this one has a big hunk of tomato” and “this one has a lot of liquid.” I didn’t know how little time we had left yet still my chest ached.
When my daughter Kalila and I were in St. Louis for Thanksgiving, literally being in town for only 36 hours because of the sudden illness of one of our cats, I didn’t know we only had two more weeks together on this earthly plane. He called me for days after that, asking after the cat, wanting to know if the antibiotics had kicked in yet and how he was doing. My father had a very soft heart that he did his best to cover. He even had me fooled for a while. We were in the car once together when I was about ten years old and a squirrel darted into the street. I thought he had hit it and I started to cry. He acted astonished and kind of irritated: “You are crying about a squirrel??” But that was a sham. Because he loved cats and even fell in love with my dog (after getting over the initial cultural shock of having a dog in the house) – and I have many stories about that for another time. He said to me on more than one occasion, “There is a special place in heaven for those who take care of God’s weaker creatures, for those who love animals.”
When he called me on December 10th, and we discussed his various pains for the day, even though he told me he was very tired, I didn’t know that in a little over 12 hours I would be getting a call from my brother telling me my dad had died in his sleep (what a blessing!). I didn’t know that my dad would leave this life behind on December 11, 2015, and that I would be heartbroken so soon.
And even with the knowledge of that now, I still feel tremendous gratitude. I am grateful he didn’t suffer much, and I am grateful he is now released from a body that had run its course. And I am especially grateful to have been his daughter. My relationship with him has not ended. I can feel his presence, even as I write, and I know we have more stories to explore together. There are many more to tell.
So for now I will just say rest in peace, Said I. Raziq. Your work on this planet is done. You were, and you remain, as you always signed your letters, my loving father.
Also, don’t forget to check out the PREMIER episode of Palestinians Podcast featuring Annalise Raziq. Click here to listen!