Written By: Sarina Fazan and her 7 year old niece Ariya Azeem
Have you ever known someone whose mere presence lifts your soul?
Whose smile makes your heart sing and whose gentle touch wipes away any pain?
That’s my sister Shala. Since we were little girls, I always saw her as an angel. A true messenger of God on this Earth.
So, how could God, deliver such searing pain to one of his most beloved?
The blow came swiftly and with no mercy. Ripping away at her heart. Leaving a scar so deep nothing can come close to erasing the deep wound.
But, Shala, does not see it the same way as I do. Her faith is so strong and so pure. She sees it as God’s will; just like an angel.
The essence of Shala
I asked my father recently who Shala resembled, not her physical being, but her soul.
My dad told me his beloved mother.
A dear woman who in her mid forties became a widow. Her husband, my grandfather dying of a massive heart attack right in front of my dad’s eyes when he was only 14.
Who could have ever imagined decades later, the granddaughter who so closely embodies her spirit would suffer the same fate?
But it would be cancer taking away her husband. Shala’s soulmate Hasan, dying as his three children, including their 11 year old son Adam clung to his hands.
The story of Adam
Shala and Hasan were so happy and content with their lives.
They had two beautiful daughters.
My sweet nieces Iman and Jennah. The girls 10 years apart and the best of friends.
But my father insisted their family was not complete. He wanted a grandson from them.
Shala and Hasan laughed it off insisting they were done.
The reason the girls were 10 years apart was because the eldest, Iman, was born while Hasan was in medical school. He worked long hours and Shala was in college pursuing a masters degree. They had very little time and were absorbed with work and little Iman.
They waited to have Jennah after Hasan not only completed his residency but established himself as a premiere internist opening his own clinic in a suburb just outside of Chicago.
Still, my father persisted even going one step further vowing to take this wish to the holy land of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
My parents had decided to make the journey about ten years ago when Iman was 14 and Jennah was 4.
The belief is when you first lay eyes on the holy stones the first prayer comes true.
My dad’s again: a son born to Shala and Hasan.
Just weeks after returning from their journey Hasan and Shala came for a visit as they often did.
But, this time, Shala was blushing with news. They were pregnant!
I see my dad’s sweet mischievous smile. He wasn’t surprised at all he knew it was because of his prayer and to solidify his conviction wouldn’t you know, Adam was born on my dad’s birthday.
Shala and Hasan
Hasan, who we call HK was a winner in all aspects of life.
Like his birth sign Leo he led like a lion and his love just as fearless.
He was also so compassionate. If you are reading my earlier blogs, you know I left an arranged marriage to pursue my career in broadcast journalism.
My parents wanted a secure life for Shala so they sought out to find a perfect mate. They heard about this young aspiring doctor. My brother Shabaz who we call Bazi, only a year younger than Shala started to get to know Hasan. It did not take long before Bazi said he had a good feeling and Hasan was the right man for our beloved Shala.
A few months later, the two got married in a traditional Indian wedding. Shala wore a classic red gown and Hasan dressed in what is known as a sherwani. Hasan’s parents had traveled to India to have the clothes made. They wanted everything to be perfect for the wedding of their first child. The ceremony was beautiful, warming the hearts of the hundreds who attended on that December evening.
Shala and Hasan barely knew each other when they took their vows. But, like a flower their love blossomed. Their unity so perfect, their love story unfolded, like ones you find in fairy tales.
The birth of Iman
I know I started with Shala and Hasan’s youngest child.
Now let me tell you about their eldest.
We call her Muni, which means “little one” in the Indian language of Urdu.
She is so special for many reasons, including being the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
But there is also a special bond between Shala and her daughter. Muni was born on Shala’s birthday.
Since Hasan had such a brutal schedule completing residency and Shala’s schooling they dedicated their time to their “Muni.” For the next ten years, it would be just the three of them.
Muni not only looking like her dad but having the same passion. This year she will finish medical school following in the footsteps of her father.
Cancer started taking over Hasan’s body in January. It started in his lungs and spread to his brain.
By April he had to scale back from his clinic and work mostly from home.
It seemed like a cruel joke in our family. My little brother Shan is in an oncologist, my brother Bazi is a neurosurgeon who specializes in cancer. They took a critical role in his care, but the cancer took such a strong hold.
Hasan refused to give up. Hasan is a fighter, again a winner.
He is the eldest of three children. He is the perfect son, husband and father.
He is also the best brother-in-law anyone could ask for. I love him with all my heart and so do thousand of others.
He is not only a healer of the body but also the mind. He is a mentor to so many in his Chicago community. He volunteered countless hours to help young children and those in need.
He’s one of those people who draws you in immediately.
He’s so warm, so welcoming, just so good.
I won’t talk about him in the past tense because his soul lives on; we see it every day in Jennah.
Jennah is Shala and Hasan’s second child.
She will graduate high school this coming year. She is not sure what career she wants to pursue yet, but we can bet no matter what she does, she will have a huge impact just like her father.
She is the favorite among the cousins, because like her dad, her warm uplifting spirit lights up a room.
Her nickname, so appropriately, is JK.
But the meaning of her name, is heaven or paradise known as Jannah.
We as a family and the community know that is Hasan’s new home.
We also know Hasan is all around us. It was so clear to see after the words from the youngest in our family, Shan.
During Hasan’s prayer service, Shan used three words to describe Hasan: intelligence, compassion and strength.
Shan’s next words, were like a light in a tunnel, spreading peace, comfort and the realization sweet Shala will never walk alone.
Her husband’s three greatest traits live on in their children.
Intelligence in Iman, compassion in Jennah and strength in Adam.
Through them his legacy will live. Please remember Hasan and pray for Shala.