The strongest guilt is when we don’t know the student who has passed away. There’s something about knowing that someone went to the same coffee shops as you, enrolled in courses on Student Center at the same time as you and went to the same parties as you yet you never crossed paths with them. In so many scenarios you were just a step away from being friends.
On the Persian holiday, I needed family, I needed jubilation, I needed to declare an arbitrary beginning in a way that only declaring a new year can. If I didn’t put in the effort to celebrate Nowruz, no one would.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 has been one of the most inspirational people in my life. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet her. But when she passed away just a few days ago, I mourned her death. Experiencing her death and the impact that it has had on so many people has forced me to consider and reconsider our definitions of mourning and grief. I should clarify that I am a big “fan” of Justice Ginsburg.
One of my favorite memories of Didi dadi is from the summer of my freshman year when I was doing an internship across the street from her apartment. I had gone over during my lunch break to find the dining room table overflowing with plates of fresh mango and lychee, cookies, savory Indian snacks and madeleines. Somewhere in the midst of catching up on my first year of college and her move to Chicago from the suburbs, I guess I mentioned that I liked the madeleines. When I got up to go home, Didi reached above the fridge for the round plastic container full of them and dumped the whole thing in a bag, insisting that I take the cakes as well as a fresh, round watermelon home with me. I convinced her to keep the watermelon, but I was eating madeleines for days.
I never thought that when grief would knock on my door, I wouldn’t welcome any visitors. I never thought that when the day I lost a loved one arrived, I would stand six feet away from my Baba as he announced to me the passing of his own Baba in our hometown in Iran. I never thought that when my Baba needed me most, he would ask me to step away from him because my embrace could sentence him with the same, cruel virus that took his father. The thing about grief in the time of social distancing is that it is felt in distance too. On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a hunger for a lick-your-fingers after a peanut butter jelly sandwich kind of sweetness.