Illustration by Tala Nassar

The Passing of Time: A Sister's Letter

I do believe that, over time, the pain of loss lessens. But as Anna Quindlen put it, "Here is one of the worst things about having someone you love die: It happens again every single morning."

Mar 24, 2018

Dear Atif,
It may be true that time heals all wounds, but there are moments where I feel your absence keenly. Birthdays. Reunions. Family photos. Seeing my younger sister’s antics which remind our parents and I of you.
When I started at NYUAD, your death was so recent, and I remember not knowing how to broach the subject with others. Do I say that I had a brother, who passed away earlier that year or do I say that I have one sister if asked about my siblings? In my freshman year, I joined the women’s basketball team - prior to which I’d only played for leisure - in memory of your three-point shots and the basketball swish, which is the sound made when the ball drops through the goal without touching the iron rim.
I do believe that, over time, the pain of loss lessens. But as Anna Quindlen put it, "Here is one of the worst things about having someone you love die: It happens again every single morning."
January 2014
We’d just returned from our winter vacation which we spent in India. It was the first time we’d gone in the winter and, though we couldn’t travel to many places, I appreciated the quality time that we spent with our relatives and extended family. I took my SAT subject tests at the end of the month, I remember, and there were other events that I looked forward to attending including the school’s drama performance, international day and senior BBQ.
February 2014
I got the invitation to attend Candidate Weekend ED2, which was an incredible experience; meeting people from all over the world. I’d hoped to bring you to campus one day and show you the basketball courts and table-tennis area, now called “Baraha”.
Feb 14, the International Day, students put together performances and stalls representing countries. Our mini Global Village, as I like to call it. I’d gone to school early to prepare for the performance and help set up the stall. You came later to check out the stalls in your wheelchair. When we returned home together, you asked our mother “When did Ita come home?” forgetting that I came home with you. I wasn’t sure whether you were being serious, but it seemed like an honest question. I hoped then that you wouldn’t forget me.
Feb 15, I received acceptance to NYUAD. By this time, you weren’t speaking much but you would enjoy playing on your iPad as it relaxed you. I wonder whether you knew that I’d gotten accepted to university, which marked the beginning of a new chapter.
Feb 20-22, Abu Dhabi Model United Nations, aka ADMUN weekend. My routine had changed. I came home from school, and went to the hospital after lunch and a change of clothes. I can’t recall that last thing I told you, but I wish I did.
March 2014
This was the weekend when your situation got worse, and you entered a comatose situation. You squeezed back when I held your hand, but no other motion. You were connected to tubes that carry food into your body.
May 31, 2014
Graduation ceremony, Class of 2014. I didn’t imagine that you wouldn’t be around to witness me receiving my diploma. It’s been over two months since your death, yet the pain of loss is still fresh in our minds. Looking back at how we maintained an inner reserve of strength, it definitely made me a stronger person today.
March 19, 2018
Today marks the fourth year since you’ve left this world. You died a peaceful death and for that I am thankful, alhamdulillah. As the heartbeat monitor reflected your slowing heartbeat rate, I remember wanting it to slow. I remember praying for a miracle to happen, willing for the numbers to rise, rather than fall. But you had decided to leave and we had to accept it.
Since 2014 on this day, I’ve found myself at the airport en route to Sri Lanka, the following year in Mumbai, and then at the airport in Georgia (US) last year. Every year, I find myself reflecting upon my experiences since your passing away and I suppose the only thing I would change is to have you meet the incredible people who have helped me get to where I am today. This year, I was in Abu Dhabi and it felt like I had come full circle.
As we count down to the end of the school year and near commencement, I know I will feel your presence stronger as I walk down to get my diploma. I will not feel that you are missing because in fact, you are with me every step of the way. I love you from the bottom of my heart.
Until we meet again.
Your Ita
Siba Siddique is a contributing writer. Email her at
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