My Heart Kaleidoscope


A story of tragic loss inspires writer Hanaa to realize Allah’s gift to live another day in His remembrance.

“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cÅ“ur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” – Le Petit Prince

(Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.)

Thoughts ecliptically roam the room as I sit at my desk typing this. Words nestled on the tip of my tongue, charged with emotion, make their way to my fingertips. I want to do her story justice, to make you hear her voice and see her for more than what my words can ineptly paint. I euphorically recall the way she would always read stories to my siblings and I when we were young and how she never missed the opportunity to do her best character voice over’s. My memories of her are filled with happiness and fondness. It was she who taught me lessons not to be memorized and mindlessly chanted back; she taught me to look at the world through my heart kaleidoscope.

“Hanaa,” my mom beckoned from the kitchen, “come downstairs, I need to talk to you.” “Yeah Mom,” I chimed as I made my way down the stairs. “We’re driving up to Toronto tomorrow, your aunt’s very sick and she’s in the hospital.” Just like that, with the crimson rise of the sun the next morning, we were off. Four hours of contemplation, expecting the best, and pleading for Allah to grant her health. When we were finally within city limits, we headed straight to the hospital in hopes that visiting hours hadn’t come to an end. We parked the car and my mom killed the engine and lights before turning to me and asking if I was “alright.” I smiled in a façade of strength and dryly replied, “yeah Mom. Are you ok?” She glanced forward and replied, “I hope so.” When we finally made it out of the car, the air was brisk and unwelcoming. I buried my face deep in my jacket and paced beside my mom to the hospital’s front doors. “Which way to the ICU?” my Mom asked a passing nurse. “Third floor,” she replied.

The elevator chimed a heart wrenching melody and we made our way to the waiting room. The waiting room was filled with welcoming family members, most of whom I hadn’t seen in years. Hugs, kisses, and remarks on the progression of my height filled the quiet room until a stillness overpowered the voices. “What did the doctors say?” my Mom asked one of our relatives. “They said it’s something called lupus.” “And the baby?” my Mom inquired. “Gone,” was all I heard before my head collapsed into my hands. She was diagnosed with what is medically known as ‘systemic lupus erythematosus’ or SLE. SLE is an autoimmune disease where the person’s immune system attacks the body’s own cells, tissues, and organs resulting in inflammation, cell eruptions, and irrevocable damage. Being only eleven at the time, the most I understood was that she couldn’t breathe on her own due to internal bleeding, she was in a coma, and her body was fighting battle against itself. Needless to say, that day I cried tears released from a place within myself that I didn’t even know existed.

Within a few hours of arriving my great-uncle asked if I wanted to see her. In my mind I knew that I desperately wanted to see her, but my heart urged me to encapsulate my former memory of her. I braved the rampant waves of my echoing thoughts and stood to achingly walk to her room. I had mentally braced myself for what I knew I would see but subhanAllah nothing could have prepared me enough. I closed my eyes and hot tears streamed down my cheeks. I reached for her hand and let her know I was here. I kissed her forehead and reminded her of our tradition, our adventures in the world of literature. I begged her to come back to us and told her that I loved her and that I wanted her to know I would be there when she finally opened her eyes, inshaAllah.

That day was an eclipse of my heart kaleidoscope. The word kaleidoscope is derived from Ancient Greek and literally translates as “observer of beautiful forms.” One looks through one end of the kaleidoscope while light enters the other end and mirrors reflect images of startling juxtapositions. Some enchant you with a sea of patterned colors while others entrap your worries in a whimsical world of beauty. I searched for a light to tint my worry and for it to shine through my heart so that I too could be lost in its beauty. I considered all avenues of positivity on the four hour ride back home and like the throbbing ache of my tear ducts, I came up dry each time.

Three days later, we got a call that my aunt had passed away. I remember how my Mom’s voice broke when she told us and how my heart sank into my stomach while I tired to swallow the fact that she was indeed gone. Before I knew it we were back on the road to Toronto for her funeral. After the funeral, family and friends were invited to my great-uncle’s home to pay their respects. I recall an influx of people coming and going, people hugging me, and the sound of faint sobs from different rooms of the house. I was emotionally numb for most of the first day and that night I cried myself to sleep. My other aunt would periodically check on me, after hearing my choked sobs. She hugged me and repeated in earnest that this was Allah’s plan. She told me that my aunt had dreams and wishes. She said that a few weeks before becoming ill she desperately wanted to come closer to Allah. My sobs only intensified as I thought of my twenty-nine year old aunt, who had lost her baby, her life, and her chance. Had I known that only four days ago would be the last time I would see her, maybe I would have held her hand a little longer or kissed her forehead that additional time. Yet, that’s the scary thing about such phrases as “had I known” because in reality we never really do. In all honesty, I’m only certain of this very moment and the moment that inevitably approaches: my last breath.

Over the years I’ve never allowed the memory of my aunt to fade and as I peer through my heart kaleidoscope now, I can see a radiating light shining through from the other end. A striking light that represents love, beauty, life, faith, and most of all the knowledge that today is mine to seize. I see Allah’s generosity in each day that I am alive and the opportunity He has given me to please Him and fulfill His commands. So, if you want to wear hijab, do it! Go for hajj? Do it! Wear an abayah? Do it! Pray all your prayers on time? Do it! Allah makes the path to Him easy for those who seek and tread upon it, so don’t let anything hold you back from expending every breath in the way of your Creator and Master. Our lives are flashing fast before our eyes and to think that we may get another chance other than today would be to take the example of all those who have passed before us in vain. Hard times are tests and lessons for us and sometimes the lessons that last the longest aren’t those seen only with the eyes, but more importantly felt with the heart.