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“For in this sleep of death what dreams may come…”

My grandfather, who helped raise me, passed away peacefully on August 29 at the age of 93. I couldn’t decide at first whether it would be right to post my letter to him here. It’s so private; would publicizing it take away from its sincerity? But I want everyone who wants to know me to learn about him and the important role he continues to play in my life. Here goes.

Baba Bozorg, (Bazorg to Damon and I, who called you that for much too long!) of course you’re watching us now, wishing this rare occasion of being together wasn’t full of heartache. You always wanted your loved ones to be happy; we all know this. And in a family of ambitious, excitable people you took pleasure in the “simple things in life”: cooking before Sunday dinners with everyone around you, watching your favorite TV shows uninterrupted, witnessing your grandchildren grow up and especially good in all those moments: sweet, delicious things.

But of course we’ve been crying dear Baba, ever since you left us. You have been the arms around this family; your patience and kindness a constant reminder to slow down and focus on what’s truly important.

Baba, my memories of you, no matter how random and scattered, define you as a person for me:

Once, when Damon and I were too young to know better, we played with a bird’s nest until the chicks fell out. We fled and watched the area from afar, only then aware that what we had done was horrible. And suddenly, there you were, walking through the garden with the chicks in your hands.

(Your strong hands. Those rough-skinned fingers that you used to run through my hair when I was a little girl. And how you used to twirl your thumbs when your hands were clasped in you lap — that simple movement was so comforting for us children to watch. Yes, I will always remember your hands, Baba).

How did you know that the chicks had fallen from their nest? You couldn’t have possibly seen what happened from inside the house where I know you were. But you returned those babies to their nest, Baba, and never said anything to anyone about the incident. This may be memory playing tricks on me, but I seem to remember them being okay. If any human could have convinced the mother bird that it was possible for her to safely return to her nest, it would have been you.

In that yard’s house, where we all lived and you helped raise Damon and I, you showed us what love means. When it snowed, you would collect a fresh layer of it in a bowl and pour maple syrup on it for us to enjoy. What a joy it was to just sit there in all that warmth and eat sweet snow while a bitter winter raged outside. And when it was summer, you tirelessly helped Zari Jan in that massive garden she had cultivated because that was her art and her flowers needed you. I have never witnessed a man love a woman like you loved her, Baba. You grew up together. You made your lives together. You were never apart. And Baba, you were so grateful for the way she loved you, pulling you with all her strength away from death’s grip every time you were ill. I don’t think any of us can think about Zari Jan without also thinking of you; that’s one way you will always be together.

We know that your own grandfather was stern and unaffectionate, Baba, but you were the opposite with your grandchildren. I remember your laughter, your smiles. I always welcomed your hugs and kisses, even if your bristly beard scratched me every time. Yes, your silver beard, which had black hairs in it until the very end, just like the full head of hair you somehow kept. You were always lovely to look at, Baba, even at 93 years old.

I know I am supposed to say goodbye to you now, but I can’t. I need you with me as I go through this life to remind me to be kind and generous, patient and sincere. So I will keep you alive through these memories I have of you and store them among the new, beautiful ones I make as time chisels away at me too. Let me say good night to you now, instead, dear Baba, and thank you for living a life that everyone who knew you could celebrate.

I will love you forever,

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