Fear of dying, fear of leaving this world, my physical being will turn to dust and loved ones left behind.
The weird thing is that from the day we are born, we are all dying.
So why are we so afraid of death and talking about the end, as if we are all entitled to an unlimited existence?
In my ancestral home, Punjab, Pakistan my grandfather Chaudhry Fazal Hussain Cheema died last year, his body in a coffin, paraded in the village for locals to say their goodbyes and he was buried and showered with rose petals immediately.
This follows a period of mourning and the grief processed by his doors being constantly open for people to give respects and in most cases share their desperate grief together.
My grandfather Chaudhry Fazal Hussain Cheema died in 2017
In the UK however we use terminologies such as ‘went to sleep’ or ‘passed away’ we draw curtains on coffins in quite a cold and distant manner, we do not speak about death and find it difficult to express the process.
Our fears are internalised and when a loved one dies, we cannot cope with the thought and will do anything to not address the emotions.
I have recently attempted to come to grips with my mortality and slowly but surely I am beginning to accept my physical being and my whole soul.
A little inspiration to face life and death from my Punjabi roots in this western world.
Not just the stage 4 lung cancer but all of me, every single part, I am accepting the hardships, trials and tribulations, I am accepting the traumas as tough lessons.
I am acknowledging the strengths, bravery, joy, loves and the great qualities that have come from my life experiences.
My very good friend and spirit queen Amy Charlie calls me an ‘old soul’, as soon as she called me this, it clicked.
I have always felt mature, older than my peers, I had to grow up very quickly in my teens and play the unofficial father role to my beautiful sisters.
So as hard as it is to say, why not have an old people’s disease to match?
Life is essentially a series of experiences you don’t actually think of your physical being, it’s all in the mind, memories, reactions, stories, it’s all in the head.
When you die, people do not remember what clothes you were wearing or how many things you owned or titles you accumulate, people remember your spirit and how you acted.
Your soul and energy never dies and I truly believe this as I recall how I personally grieve for people close to me.
Sharon Inge, my second mother died in 2013 but her lust for life and electric energy is still very much here
In my moments of sleepwalking through my teens and 20s I would dare to tell people the truth. This level of authenticity and honesty is something I have always struggled with as it proved unpopular at times.
Fast forward to now I am willing to channel this, I am being brutally honest with myself and sharing my experiences for others to read because I have started writing for the first time and cannot seem to stop!
This started as cathartic therapy to manage irrational thoughts and desperate emotions that come with a major life shortening diagnosis.
By sharing my words with others I feel less alone, I feel…accepted.
I am accepting my miscarriage, I am accepting my stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis, I am accepting that life isn’t fair and I hope this helps others to not feel so ‘sorry’ when devastation occurs.
Courage is something I have always had but never acknowledged because I was too busy surviving. Now I realise everything I do, every step I take is full of COURAGE to the end days.
I suppose at the age of 29 I am learning lessons people do not learn in their lifetimes, for this I feel incredibly lucky and sad at the same time.
I actually grieve for the sleepwalking version of Saima, before the diagnosis, you know the one that gets up without a nose bleed which reminds her that she is a cancer patient.
But there is a lesson here somewhere, a lot of reflection this past year on who I was and who I have become.
I heard somewhere that suffering brings wisdom, yes I am me because of my experiences, so why hide, why show the edited version of myself to others?
Some may call this ‘over sharing’ but when you face death like this you become invincible.
From the moments I sat swollen in A&E corridors with my love Gareth, confused as to what was attacking my young body.
To now where I experience health stability and glimmers of looking forward to my immediate future with my loved ones.
I am aware I have wisdom and thoughts to share now and sometimes it takes a cancer diagnosis to unlock your true potential.
So thank you and no thank you cancer for bringing me to the present and teaching me how to LIVE NOW.
As strange as it may seem, slowly, acceptance has arrived.