As a kid, I was always endlessly curious about everything. I was extremely observant. Before long I had realised something. Other kids had an Abba. So where was mine?
As I grew up I learned about this thing called cancer. My father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 blood cancer, and it was this disease that took him from this world three and a half months before I was born.
Losing a father before even taking your first breath is really hard.
And yet? Even though I miss my Abba, I was never made to feel as if I’ve missed out.
Twenty years later, I’ve realised where the credit for this lies. With my mother. She is fearless and strong, and she made sure her daughters are too.
Together my mother and my four sisters brought me up. Parents-teachers day, Annual Day…at all school events, there they were. A solid wall of support – all for me!
Since the moment he passed, my house became a clan of women. My mother became the strongest woman you could ever meet. My sisters became her pillars. Together they rushed to fill the vacuum they knew had been left in my life. They remained tight-lipped about their own pain and memories. Never did I hear my mother lament about being a widow. Not once did my sisters mention how sorely they missed the father they all remembered.
Today all of us sisters are independent and self-sufficient. I learned to drive as soon as I was eligible for a license. I still drive, despite us having a driver. I pay for my own fees.
People think being strong means to become hardhearted or somehow immune to sentiment. But my mother always tells me to be kind and loving towards others. To always choose humility over arrogance. She teaches me to a little patient and forgiving towards other people’s flaws. God loves those who forgive others, she tells me.
If I have to pick one thing my mother instilled in me, it was the truly empowering ability to choose my own destiny. She started with the little things – what clothes did I want to wear? What hobbies did I want to pursue? Then I was free to choose my own career. Follow my own aspirations. Carve out my own fate. All while not relying on anyone except myself.
Empowerment is more than a buzzword. Power is when you stand up for your right to choose, and then you choose only those things that make you stronger.
I never knew my father. But thanks to my mother, I never knew fear either.
Thank you, Amma, for being our role model and our life. We owe our lives to you. I love you Ammi!
This story is narrated by Rafia Rafiq Vadiwala, compiled and composed by sub-editor of the SSP Blog – Fatima Muhammad.