Mama. The Backbone of the Eldawi Family.
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
The woman who carried the family.
What do you tell your kids when their father has 3 to 5 years left, at best? What do you tell yourself when the man you shared your life with for 30 years will die soon? How do you deal with managing the family’s finances, children upbringing and your own self-care when you are losing the love of your life? All these questions are answered by one common answer. Hope.
Hope is all Mama has. Mama Manal, born on July 23rd, 1966 in sub-Saharan Khartoum (the capital of Sudan). To call her strong, resilient, loving or any other cliched attribute would be an under-statement. She is simply divine. She single-handedly deals with the family’s heartbreak headfirst and does not cater to any negativity. Even after 3 years of Baba’s rapid health degradation. She is the true hero of the Eldawi family. Mama is one of those few mothers you come across that has the ability to sacrifice everything and anything in life for the betterment of her children.
...To let her two sons, Husam and me, pursue higher education and a new life in the United States while she deals with Baba's health.
My parents and little brother live in Sudan, a country with an uncertain future, troubling economy and poor infrastructure. Yet, she finds solace by living near her own mother’s house. Grandma Fawzia, roughly in her mid-80s, is my mom’s only source of sanity. Grandma keeps my mom grounded. Although she is healthier than my 54-year-old dad, she still has her own health concerns. The dichotomy of seeing Grandma and Baba sitting side by side is heart-wrenching.
So, imagine dealing with all this drama and your 2 oldest sons are 8000 miles away. This is one of the biggest sacrifices my mom has ever made in her life. To let her two sons, Husam and me, pursue higher education and a new life in the United States while she deals with Baba’s health. Husam and I do visit often to help out but this will be further discussed in another post. It breaks my heart to hear her voice tremble on the phone while I do my bi-daily check up. No one knows how painful that is for me to hear. Seeing the WhatsApp notification “Hatim, I miss you so much” puts me into tears every time. She needs me. And where am I? Living the privilege my parents handed to me in Los Angeles. My life is good (despite all this) because of my parents. To be honest, it’s all because of Mama.
She is the type of person to appreciate struggles and see them in a positive light, a skill she uses frequently these days.
The love I have for my mom is greater than the amount of stars in our galaxy. Even this comparison can not fully describe my love for her. The English language does not have a phrase more powerful than “I love you”. But Arabic does. In Arabic, I would say to mama; tuqburni, which translates to “you bury me because I can not leave another day without you”. This is saying that should be rarely said and only to those worthy. Of course, my mom is the only person I have ever said that to. My mom’s spirit is what shines everytime I look at her. Her booming laugh brings joy to my heart and smile lights up the whole room. She has a halo. She is truly an angel.
She has dedicated her life to maintain the household, raise 3 turbulent boys, and be my father’s wife (even before he was sick). When Mama and Baba immigrated to the States after Husam was born in ‘92, they struggled at the beginning to make ends meet. Living in a 2 bedroom apartment, the Eldawi family shared the living space with Uncle Magdi, his wife and two children (a very key player in Baba’s story, so remember his name). After a couple of years, they eventually moved out to separate homes. My mom still reminisces on those times. She is the type of person to appreciate struggles and see them in a positive light, a skill she uses frequently these days.
The toughest thing to do everyday is to hide your pain. Losing a father is one thing but losing a spouse is whole other struggle. And then watching the beloved fade away slowly is like dragging your heart across a sandpit. Every day it gets worse.
My dad once said “my health is like a line of light bulbs and every day one these bulbs is turned off indefinitely.” When my dad said this through his computerized talking aid, everyone in the room broke into tears. This was the point in time I started to think about my mom’s position. It is indeed different to losing a parent. I would ask Mama time to time “how do you cope?”
And every time she would reply, “Hope, my dear. Hope is all I have.”