Dear Dad…

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I heard of your passing in May of this year. I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner, but no one told us. Basil, Hunaida and I received letters from MetLife Insurance Company about a group policy that you had held with them. You died in October of 2013, but I guess none of our uncles wanted to be the bearers of bad news.

This letter is not an expression of anger to you or to them for not telling us; though it hurt at first, I am not angry. I’ve had a chance to talk with my brother and sister (who goes by Naida now) and to reflect on my life without you here as my dad, and I can’t be angry. I can only pray that by some miracle, you came to know what I know within seconds of your death and that one day I will get to see you.

If you did, there’s really no need to read on. But I’m going to keep writing, because I need to get this out.

Mom told me that you were very religious. What some would term a “fanatic” in fact. She said you would come home from work and go upstairs to pray all night. You wanted my brother and sister to read the Qur’an and pray Islamic prayers, and got angry when they refused, even though neither of them spoke any Arabic. Naida was not allowed to go out with her friends or watch TV (not even sports). Mom would sneak her out of the house and take her to the mall where she worked, just so she could have a semblance of a normal social life.

You weren’t always this way, at least not with her. It was a gradual progression that began years after my brother and sister were born and escalated to the point that my mom actually left you and went to live with our Uncle Feisal for a while. You begged her to take you back and promised you would change. And you did, for a short time. I’m glad she decided to give you another chance, because if not, I would never have been born.

But shortly after I was born, you and mom divorced.

Not long after my brother had his first son, Alek, you left the country without a goodbye. Just a note and your old Mustang.

I don’t really remember you. I have memories of being in your presence, but they are very vague. I know you remarried and went on to have four children with your new wife in Jordan. One of them has since befriended me on Facebook. He has tried, several times, to convert me to Islam, but to no avail. Actually, I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but we are Christians now. All of us. Mom, Naida, Basil, me and our spouses and children. We are very fortunate to have received grace from the Lord, our God.

Though I didn’t know you or grow up with you in my life, for many years, I was angry with you for following a God that you claimed required you to turn your back on your children, because we didn’t follow or practice your religion. I was angry until I realized that Jesus demands the same thing of us — that we forsake all and follow Him. Only, I think for us, that looks very different.

You believed that favor from God had to be earned. In your eyes, it wasn’t until after you had proven yourself — it wasn’t until after you resumed your 5 daily prayers, turned your back on your family and done what you felt God required of you — that you’d be counted worthy of His love. You believed these things so strongly that when we didn’t choose to believe them, it pained you. You felt immense regret for not raising us the “right way” and for allowing us to follow a different God.

I heard you used to sit on the porch for hours at your house in Jordan, staring into space. I imagine you were thinking about the family you had left behind, wishing we had adopted your faith. Maybe that’s the case; maybe it isn’t. Either way, I just want you to know that you never needed to worry about us. We are fine. Better than fine; we are saved. Our God is merciful and He gave us grace even though we didn’t do a thing to deserve it. We will never be worthy of His love, but that’s okay, because Jesus is, and He has already paid our debts. Because of His saving grace, to forsake all and follow him is a privilege. Not something we feel compelled to do in order to earn his favor.

I imagine these are things you may have come to find out after you passed away. I’m not sure where you are or what you’re doing now, but there is a spark of hope within my heart that believes our God is so merciful, there’s a chance He may have rescued your soul too — even within seconds of when that truck hit you on the road.

That’s my prayer anyway.

Love, your daughter,

Selwa B Lukoskie

(formerly known as Salwa M Babaa)

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