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The International Writers Magazine: Life Moments

My First Heartbreak
• Imraan Khan
My grandmother was a beautiful, goddess like figure: she had fair, glowing skin, large brown eyes, thick black hair that flow down to her lower back and a heart made from gold.

She had seen a tough life herself: being in an abusive marriage, having little to no money on which to run the household, to take care of four children of her own and now she had me. I think we both came into each other’s life at the right time, for the right reasons. I was the silver lining on her grey cloud she called life and she was my guardian angel.

I was the light of her life. When I was born she immediately took to me and never let me go. In my early days she was the one that raised me; she was more to me than my mother. She dressed me for school, she would feed me, made sure I had everything I needed and that I never cried. She would read me stories – and for a woman that knew little to no English that was an amazing effort – she would bathe me and, at night, she would tuck me into her bed and sleep besides me singing me a song and telling me that everything would be alright.

I was very fond of her. At the time, she was the closest thing in my life. She gave me hope, motivation; she taught me the value of love, and she protected me. She taught me what patience was, how to have faith, to keep determined and to never stop fighting for what I wanted.

 She fell ill when I was around eight years old with a bad kidney and other complications that I never asked about. She suffered. She was in and out of the hospital and eventually her eye sight would give way and all her vital organs would give up. The toughest aspect of my life so far was to visit her in the hospital. To see my knight in shining armor strapped to a bed with tubes going in and out of her as if she was just a piece of meat. This was my pillar lying there so helplessly, this was the person that showed me the meaning of strength and perseverance; and now she lay there beaten by life. 

 At this particular time, my mother and I were living with an aunt in Toronto, Canada and I was on a holiday to visit my grandmother. My mother had accompanied me but had to leave earlier for work reasons. I stayed back as my heart would not let me leave just yet. Was this the end? What was going to happen? When is my grandmother going to get better? I was a young boy; I had so many questions about what was going on, what death was all about and why my grandmother wasn’t coming home. It was overwhelming. I would confront my aunts, my uncles and my peers but all I would get would be sympathetic gestures from the elders and useless information from the younger ones.

Nonetheless, I had been taught by this extraordinary being that faith was one of the most important tools to get what you want. I kept the candle burning in my heart and I remember telling myself that she would be home before I knew it. Every day the struggle became worse, my grandmother was deteriorating piece by piece and she was taking my faith with her. I could not help but watch in agony as she withered away and I would ask myself why such a beautiful person should suffer so much. What had she done wrong?

It was the 18th of November, 1992. This was the day I was to depart and join my mother in Canada. With my grandmother still in the hospital, I felt a large lump in my throat about leaving, but I had no choice, I had to go. My mother had arranged with the airline and they would assign me special care and made sure I made it safely to her. Before going to the airport my grandmother had asked my aunt to take me to the hospital, she wanted to dress me before I left.

We drove into the hospital and I looked up at my grandmother’s room window which was facing the parking lot and I whispered to God: ‘Please take care of her whilst I’m gone, please take her home.’ The walk from the car to her room felt very long and every step was harder than the last. It was now sinking in that I was about to leave her – when she needed me the most.

She gracefully put on my clothes for me, combed my hair and made sure I was the dashing young man she had raised. We both knew this was goodbye, but none of us had the courage to say it. She took me in her arms and gave me all the blessings in the world. She told me I would be a strong boy and that I had to take care of my mother. We cried. She whispered: ‘it’s going to be okay’, she let go of me, wiped my face and sent me on my way.

Just before leaving her room I stood in the doorway and I whispered: I love you. And as if she could read my mind she smiled and blew me a flying kiss and I left.  I had never felt such a sharp pain in my heart before. I didn't turn around even once to look back at her room or at the lonely hallway because I knew it would break my heart all over again. Tears streaming down my face I kept repeating to myself: ‘you have to be strong, for her’.

My aunt dropped me to the airport and she could see I was distraught. She knew this was the hardest day of my life and most importantly she knew she could do nothing about it. We said our goodbye’s, the steward came to take me away and I looked up at my aunt and gave her a reassuring smile that I knew my grandmother would be proud of and I said: ‘don’t worry, I’ll be just fine’

I got to Canada the very next day, and as I was preparing to go to bed my mother and I heard the door bell. Instantly tears filled up my eyes and I watched anxiously as my mom spoke to her aunt and uncle (my grandmother’s family). She fell to her knees and wept like a child. I knew my grandmother was no more. But like she said, I had to be strong. I wiped my tears walked towards my mother and sat down on the floor next to her. She took me in her arms and I said: ‘Mom, it’s going to be okay’.

This was the first time I had felt a piece of me die.

© Imraan Khan October 2013

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