The Greatest Honor

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| This is the 485th story of Our Life Logs |


I was born into a lower-middle class family in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in July 1954. My father made little money as a government officer and could not afford to take care of us kids. With one son and four daughters, he already had the odds against him, as marrying off four girls was quite expensive. Struggling to care for us all, my parents wound up giving one of my sisters to my uncle.

Life went on as well as it could for our situation. We all received basic secondary education. To help afford daily life, my siblings and I used to help our mother make frozen food items to sell.

But all the while, I dreamed of a better life. Like many girls growing up in the ’60s, my dream was to get married to the love of my life. I fantasized about a wonderful husband who would respect and support me no matter what. I imagined that his family would be better off than mine, allowing him to take care of my every need. But knowing our financial standing, many of these hopes seemed unattainable. I wondered if my life of poverty would ever end.

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You can imagine my surprise when my parents managed to find the suitor of my fantasies. They fixed my marriage to a man in Karachi. Even though I didn’t know much about him, I did know he was financially doing better than my parents. I saw hope for the first time, a chance to escape poverty and have a more stable life.

We got married in 1974, and I moved to Karachi with him. Once I got to know my husband, I completely fell for him. He treated me like a princess and respected me just like I’d always dreamed my future husband would. I was happy. What was once fantasies of a young girl was now my reality. I thought my life would be filled only with blessings from there on.

After about a year, I had my first child, a boy. We were thrilled by the new addition to our family. Then, just three months after our son was born, I got pregnant again! It was an unexpected surprise, but a joyful one nonetheless. I thought it was a wonderful gift from God.

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Unfortunately, as it turned out, my struggles had not yet ended. There was more left on my plate. I was seven months pregnant, preparing for our new baby’s arrival. My husband left for work that morning like any other day, except this time, he never made it home. My father-in-law came to the house to give me the heartbreaking news.

While driving his motorcycle, my husband got into an accident that killed him instantly. I was completely torn apart by the news. It couldn’t be true. My beloved husband of just a little over two years was gone, no longer a fixture in my life. The life we built together, my new reality, was so cruelly ripped from my hands, and the future was so unclear.

I immediately called my parents in Rawalpindi to relay the news. Because of the distance, they couldn’t come that same day, so that night, I stayed with my in-laws as I tried processing the loss. Not only had I lost my love, I had also lost my support system. Now I had to raise our toddler and unborn child on my own, alone to fight in the battlefield of life.

My world had been broken into hundreds of pieces. Devastated and overwhelmed, I prayed to God to end my life too, take me away from this hardship. Without my husband by my side, how was I supposed to go on? How was I supposed to raise our children alone? For a splash of a second, I thought of aborting my second child, but I immediately refused to let that be an option. The child growing inside me was the last piece of my husband that I had. I couldn’t bear to lose anything else.

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Sadly, my in-laws did not help or even take pity on me after the loss. They were cold and refused to give me any share of their fortune after their son’s death. With him gone, I was nothing to them. My only source of income had vanished with my husband. I feared for how I would survive in Karachi alone with two children. I knew it wasn’t possible. With no other choice, I returned to my parents’ house. I had become a burden to them once more, but this time doubled with a toddler and an upcoming baby.

My father was about to retire, so money was very tight. He said he could not afford to feed all three of us. I was not educated enough to get a good job, but I had no choice but to hope I’d find one after having my baby.

After my second child, another boy, was born, all I could see him as at first was another burden. I asked God, “Why did you send him when you knew that I would be alone?” My head was constantly full of negative thoughts. I’d go for weeks without any prayers because I was angry with God. I would lock myself in a room and leave my kids with my mother for hours and hours. I would hear them crying. I knew they needed me, but I was so broken that I tried to ignore the reality that I had to take care of my boys. I just wanted to be alone. I wish I had given my youngest more affection back then. The poor child had never known his father, and his mother was distant.

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When my youngest was six months old, I started searching for a job. I knew I couldn’t lock myself up anymore. I had to find something for the sake of my sons’ future. I wasn’t sure how I would ever be able to afford to give them a reasonable education, but I vowed to get them educated no matter what it took, so they could have a better life.

Soon I found a job as a receptionist at a dry cleaner’s shop. At that time, I was the only woman in my neighborhood who worked. It was very uncommon in those days, in the 1970s, for a girl to leave the house, let alone work. But what else could I do besides being strong?

I would come home to breastfeed my child every three hours. Initially, I would take a bus home to save time, but that became expensive. I needed to save each and every penny for my boys, so I decided to walk each time, thrice a day. When the sun came down and my aching feet carried my exhausted body home, I wanted nothing more than to go back to the days before my husband died or forward past these hard times.

The years ticked by.

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My father saw how hard I was working and offered to help with his grandsons’ education. Both my sons got into a renowned public school where they thrived. They were very bright and hardworking. As they became older, they could see how we were struggling and wanted to do something after school to help support the family. On festivities when many were out celebrating, my boys would keep a stall of small items to earn money.

Things were hard, but as the boys grew up and became wonderful young men, I started to see the light in my life. It all seemed to click. God had given me two warm-hearted children as a reward for all the difficulties I had faced with dignity. Yes, my husband was now gone, and I was forced back into poverty, but from it all I got two incredible sons who are just as gracious and kind as their father.

As they reached adulthood, my older boy went to Dubai with his family and is currently working at Dubai International Airport. My younger boy has earned his name in journalism and is now a sports journalist. I am living with his family in Rawalpindi.

I feel the peace every time I look at my children. I can see my husband live on in them. Their actions, how they talk, how they play with their kids—everything they do reminds me of him. And that brings me joy and closure, knowing that his memory lives through them. If my husband were alive, I am sure he would be extremely proud.

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No one’s life is easy. We all face hard times, but if we keep fighting to get through them, we will reap rewards and growth on the other side. I believe that if God gives you difficulties, he also gives you the energy to face them. Time is the biggest healer for pain, but so is hard work. I vowed to educate my boys and fixating on that helped me recover from the dark place I’d found myself after their father’s death. Today, I’m much more optimistic. I have moved on from the past because I know my husband’s memory lives in my sons. That is the greatest honor.

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This is the story of Sobia Ameen

Sobia is currently living in Rawalpindi surrounded by her family. Growing up poor, Sobia dreamed of marrying someone better off so she’d have a chance at a stable life. She had that life until her husband died in an accident, leaving her to raise their two children by herself. She reached a point where she knew she had to work hard for her children’s sake and that helped her heal from the loss. According to her granddaughter, Sobia is the coolest grandmother one can ever imagine. Despite being in her mid-60s, she is a high-tech lady. She owns an android phone as well as a tablet to watch her favorite series. Sobia also has a very fun group of friends, who have a pot luck at her house almost every week. She has traveled to many countries in her lifetime. Recently, she went to Egypt with one of her friends. All the sorrows have been erased from her heart and she is now enjoying her life to the fullest.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on January 30, 2020.

| Writer: Zaid Mubbasher | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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