Originally posted as a note on July 9, 2013
Erum; a truly sweetheart of a person, whom I call ‘Paroo’; as in punjabi; someone lovebale’.
It was 1985, when my mom walked me to the Pakistan Embassy School in Jeddah, and left me a class room called ‘1 B’, to start my school years. My feeling were mixed with excitement and fear, considering I was up since 4 am to get ready for school that day.
I walked into a room of girls just like me, small and excited, and started my journey of 8 beautiful years, making friends, having water fights, ganging up against other class sections, and discussing 1st crushes.
Among the sea of friends that I made, I still recall the beautifully innocent face of Erum, who had a round face and a constant smile of her face. When all of us grew from an innocent child to self-proclaimed smart adults, Erum somehow, had maintained her innocence, which came from her pure heart.
Erum was special in many ways; getting excited about the latest food, or introducing us to the newest things in her life. She was the first in my life to tell me about a cosmetic company called ‘Avon’ where her dad worked. Being true females, we all ooed and aahhed about it. But startlingly, Erum never had any complexes, rather her humbleness made her even more endearing.
After 8th grade, I moved away, only to meet Erum again in 2005, when we both were married and starting new lives. Usually, you meet people after a while and say, wow! you are still the same! But for Erum…SHE was truly still the same! the same glowing rosey snow white complexion, and a constant smile, with an innocent empathy and love for all.
Over the years, Erum and I met at so many of our get together, where she was always happy and willing to go along with all of our crazies. What was special about her, that even when we would discuss someone, Erum was always quick to defend that person, showing her pure loving heart.
My last birthday was special, because on 4 december 2012, Erum, Najia and Moon ( all school friends) surprised me with a visit and cake. I really felt happy to see Erum, as even though, we were not best buddies, still her initiative to come out while she was in pain, was truly special for me.
Erum had been married for many years, and having tried for a baby, was now blessed and pregnant, in the end of 2012. She mentioned to us about her pain in her liver, but us naive humans, all told her that it must be the pregnancy. It is true, that ‘Denial’ is the strongest of human coping mechanism for all things unknown. So, we all told her that ‘All is Well’….
Sadly, all was not well. I met Erum last in May, when my school buddies, including her, came over to bid me farewell, as I finally left Saudi Arabia.
I never imagined that this would be our last meeting.
Erum was supposed to deliver in June. Once I was in Pakistan, we stayed in touch through Facebook messages, in which Erum announced that she had delivered a beautiful daughter named ‘Sara’ and sent me her pictures. Alongside, she informed me that the liver pain had gotten worse, and she left her few days old daughter with her mom, and travelled to Pakistan with Husband, for treatment.
Here on, my contact with her stopped, as she didn’t write back to my messages.
A few days back, a group message started, where all of our Jeddah friends were told by a friend in Karachi, about the worsening condition of Erum. Doctors had diagnosed her with Breast Cancer, on last stages, which was beyond treatment. Sadly, the diagnosis had come too late.
Erum was sent home, and told to rest. As recalled by the friends in Karachi, Erum waited with a smile to get well and to rejoin her baby, with no clue that the doctors have given her a final exit.
Over the last few days, every time I checked Facebook, I dreaded reading the messages of the group, to avoid any bad news. But still stayed updated to know about the collective prayers, and to continue praying for her.
Erum passed away, leaving so many, who miss her, and refuse to believe in our heart, that she departed.
This note is written to give a peak to the people who have been asking me about my friend, and for myself. I am reminded, death is not planned, and age cannot be controlled. So as we age, we move closer to our death, and our memory washes away like seaside sand.
Please, whomever reads this, take this Ramadan as an opportunity for praying for our Paroo Erum.