Lately, it seems like when you lose one thing, you lose way more. When I lost my Ami, it was out of nowhere. Suddenly, my compass and best friend and the person who gave birth to me was gone – in an instant, with no warning or way to go back. But it’s not just the person I miss, it’s so much more.
The ten things I didn’t know I’d miss:
1. Phone calls
Three days before I lost my Ami, I lost a friend from college – also out of nowhere. She had just had a birthday…and then all of a sudden, she was gone. When I told my Ami, the gasp made it more real. Like with all things in my life, when I had my mother to tell, things felt more real. Her gasp was what told me it was okay to be shocked by this one. Later that same day, I called her to tell her I was in Sephora, looking at makeup palettes, wondering if she would share one with me. She picked up my call, right away, in the same way I knew she would, protesting she already had too many. I used to call her multiple times in one day, not just one week, and her puzzle never had too many pieces to fit me in.
2. Putting tel
Like every obedient South Asian, when I was home, Ami would apply oil in my hair for hours. She would often start out complaining and telling me about when her hair was long like mine – which I could never find photos of until after – and how she had chopped off hers only three days before she met my Abu and married him. Her mother would put oil in her hair and she always said if I took better care of the hair that I had inherited from her, it would look even more beautiful.
3. Our unrivaled photo-taking abilities
Seriously, my Ami and I were always with one another. In every photo we are in together, we are wrapped in each other’s arms or mid-laughter or mid-word. To this day, if I’m in a photo doing any of the above, people comment on how much I look like her.
4. Her pronunciation of everything
Her words were always meticulous; in Urdu or in English, she always took the time to speak each syllable with care. Being born and raised in a different country than hers, I’d say mine without care, rushing through to the next thought. But my Ami would always stop and pause before speaking. Not one to cry often, she would even hold her tears until she was ready to release them. Right before we lost her, she went to visit with friends of hers. During her visit, she cried, sharing terrible news of a close friend of hers, and how this woman seemed to not have enough days left. When it was her, this was the first story the friends shared with me that I actually heard through my grief.
[Read More: Empowerment Between Generations: Moms and Daughters]
5. Her uncanny ability to set everything right
She had this knack of putting everything in its place. Objects had a container, drawer, or spot. People had a compartment. At the same time, she never downgraded or spoke badly of people. If someone cut her off in traffic, it was shrugged off with a “silly chump!” or “he clearly had somewhere to go!” And people had an unlimited time to make it up to her.
6. Her love of all creatures
My sister has a video of our Ami playing with my sister’s dog, where my sister calls from off-camera “See, she likes you!,” and Ami, being dragged by a toy, retorts, “I don’t know about that!” But she is laughing and her hair is flying, and they are both clearly having fun together.
7. Her belief in us
She didn’t hold everyone to high expectations, but her family was held to the highest. Every time we went out together, she would invariably tell me my outfit was all wrong, that she wouldn’t be around forever to tell me how to dress, and I’d roll my eyes (hard, and behind her back) and trudge upstairs. I’d try on three or four different outfits, striking out every time. She would come into my room and find something in the exact same closet that was perfectly right. She would apply the same knowledge to my Abu, always picking out clothes for him that fit him well or made him look distinguished. A man more at ease in scrubs or in tennis attire, she would find clothes that wouldn’t flare up his skin but make him look like the elegant surgeon he is.
8. Her innate map
The first thing I thought of when Abu called us to come to where she was lying in a hospital bed, was ‘how was he going to get home by himself?’ Ami would pick him up in the middle of the night, or sit in the hospital for hours as he worked so she could take him home. She had an uncanny sense of streets and even if she had only been to a place once, even if it was years ago, she could take my Abu there.
9. The certainty of her
I always assumed she would be there when I turned all for the milestone numbers, when I had my children, squeezing my hand and singing Urdu lullabies in their ears, brushing my hair back when I bought my first house. In fact, I lost her before many milestone numbers, before I’ve had children, and before I’ve made my own house. Her reassurances didn’t always come and they wouldn’t come often, but when they did, they were swift deliverances that made me realize she knew so much more about the world than any of us did. But her presence about the world was always eerily right; she could tell you things you didn’t even form the question to. Sometimes, it feels like she knew the future wouldn’t hold her in it, and she had to teach it all to us.
10. Her ability to make everyone at home
It’s probably why I make jokes in therapy, when I could be talking about deep, dark things, instead. It’s why she didn’t protest when people directly defied her preferences and let it go. It might be why she always made everyone feel like they had a home to turn to.
There are so many things she is missing. But there is so much more I miss about her.