Final hour

Today is the fourth of April, the year 2020. Today is the day I die, and the day I am born again.
I hope it will be late at night when I finish writing this little story of mine; I wish to see the stars. The stars make me feel small, but in no way petty.

I thought and thought about where to start, I think I’ll stick to the beginning. I don’t know where it all started, but to me, it started in this hotel room. I was brought here because I am ill; because too many of us are ill. That same nurse who handed me this paper with the mark of her tear she failed to notice was the one who announced to me, a few days ago, that I had caught the virus of our time… Then a lot happened so fast, and so hectic that I almost have no record of it, and no record of my physical condition either… All I remember was thinking about how I was now lethal. For once, I was glad my children rarely visited, and I was glad my greatest love had died a couple years ago, a death more comfortable than mine was probably going to be, less hectic, free of guilt and worry. I was glad, on one hand, but worried, on another. I worried about the grocery worker and the cashier I had seen more than once this past couple of weeks. I worried about the pharmacist and his sweet three years old who isn’t afraid of smiling at strangers, and the neighbor who helps me with my groceries and whose smile is warmer and gentler than these last few rays of sunshine of this day and of my life, coming into my room through the tiny window. I worried about the nurses and the doctors putting their lives and more on the line for mine… And I’m only human, before the first day of my ending was over, and as the bed next to mine went empty –only to be filled again–, I worried about myself too. I worried about whether I was going to die, I worried about the way I was going to die, what I had become and how I had lived. I worried about what I was going to realize too late, about whether I was going to drown in regrets or reminiscent joy in my final hour, and I worried about my worries, and how they seemed to be consuming what I was sure were my last days.
It didn’t take me long to take shelter in the sweet handful of memories my memory was still hanging onto; reality around me was so bitter. Reality around me was dying alone, gasping for air, lack of resources, fear, regret and guilt brought about by the intertwining of our lives and beings and so much more atrocity… Reality around me was also sacrifice and compassion, solidarity and kindness, and closure despite distance… but amidst all the catastrophe and chaos, these things were almost unrecognizable to me.
I took refuge in the remembrance of the people of my neighborhood a few days ago, singing together in their balcony, in the remembrance of kissing my lover and friend in front of the tiny and cheering crowd, of holding life I had given in my arms for the first time, of reading my favorite books and poems and listening to my favorite songs for the first time, in the remembrance of breaking in my mother’s arms each time anger would leave me, in the remembrance of laughing with my brother when we were not supposed to… I took refuge in more than I can write in this piece of paper they gave me.
It was soothing to know that I have been alive for most of my life. It has been a beautiful fight, and enough. I thought about my life for hours, and thought what I lived was enough for me. I thought I’d rather give my place in this bed to somebody younger who would be more likely to live; after all, this was not the end. It might be the end of my life, but my life is small –but not petty– in front of life broadly.
I thought of babyhood, since it is the only part of my life I don’t have memories of… we start our lives with no idea of ourselves as an entity separate from the world; and as time passes and pain and unmet desires find their way through to our minds, the line between our beings and the rest of the world, slowly but surely, begins to draw itself… Tonight, under the stars, I will erase that illusory line, and I will be born again, this time as one with the universe, forever… My anger due to being robbed of what seems normal and serene from my tiny bubble of experience will leave me, and this time I will break in the arms of Mother Nature. I will dive in awe into what is sublime and vast beyond calculation.

Once I finish this letter – destined to whoever cares, but mostly to the few who love me – by which I want to be remembered for as long as I will be remembered, these machines will be taken off of me. I asked for it. I hope the eyes of these doctors and nurses don’t hold as much pity as they do now when they smile at me for the last time. I don’t want pity, not today. I want joy. No, I need joy, today. I need everyone to look at me with eyes tearing from joy, and bittersweet mixed emotions, the way they would look at a newborn. It doesn’t matter how old I am today, I am a newborn.

Author’s note: In tribute to souls as pure as this one I imagined, who are everywhere, stay at home.

Sahar Chalabi