Saudi Arabia: Wishing to Push Back Time


During all of our years of marriage, Abdullah always enjoyed the Christmas holiday season.  He liked both the true meaning and joy of Christmas as well as the commercial side of gift shopping and giving.  Our first true Christmas together was when he came to visit me in India in 2001.  I had only recently moved into a new home in New Delhi and he not only helped me set up the home but the Christmas tree too.  That was the year he received his first Christmas stocking which became a tradition for all the years we had together during our too short marriage.  I should point out that he did not come empty handed that year either.  He was like an Arab Santa Claus bearing beautiful treasures of Arabia, reminding me that the gifts he brought would be typical items we would have in our future house together.

After we married and spent our first years of marriage in the United States, he took an even more proactive role in helping with family holiday preparations.  He relished finding the ideal gifts for special people and admired his newfound handiwork at displaying Christmas lights and erecting Christmas trees.  When I was in Iraq over Christmas 2003 he took over my role of finding and stuffing holiday stockings for family members.  The unique stockings and memorable gifts he found remain talked about today in the family.

When we were in Saudi Arabia we still had Christmas celebrations behind the closed walls of our villa.  Our celebrations were not as elaborate nor did we have a large tree but the spirit of the holiday was with us.  We exchanged special gifts with each other and gave our thanks and appreciation for the meaning of Christmas.

Last year was our last Christmas although we did not know that at the time.  I was already in North Carolina having had my second chemo treatment and he was in Houston in his renewed battle to beat his leukemia.  His son and daughter were in Houston with him.  My family helped me put together a holiday box for all of them to enjoy.  My son and I baked homemade goodies to send to them along with some special gifts of love.  I remember our Skype video conference of that day and our promise that next year we’d have all the holidays together again.

As I type these words, although I can not see him, I can feel Abdullah’s presence.  I can imagine the smile and laughter on his face as our Grandson will take delight in the joy of Christmas morning.  Abdullah had this way of finding a comfortable place to sit where he would slowly sip his coffee and watch everyone’s delights of joy and surprise as they opened gifts.  He’d sit quietly with a satisfied smile on his face.  Our eyes would often meet and speak silent volumes of love and joy to one another.

Will I ever lose the dull throbbing ache of his loss?  Will I ever stop looking for his face and soft smile in a crowd?  Will I ever take over his side of the bed or always leave it untouched in his memory?

It’s been ten months but still feels more like ten days.  From the day I met Abdullah my life was never the same.  I continue to miss you my darling and I will always be your Desert Girl.



25 Responses

  1. Nice thoughts and sweet memories, Carol. This time of year is often the hardest for those who have lost loved ones.

    I don’t care what people say, joy is not contagious, but it can be substituted to a certain extent by other pleasures.

  2. Thanks, Jay.

    I’m not unappreciative by any means of all the blessings I’ve been and keep receiving but am feeling somewhat nostalgic…

  3. What wonderful memories you have had together; they’re absolutely beautiful. I can’t imagine anything worse than going through holidays without the one(s) you love the most. I send you only the best wishes and, unfortunately, a newfound though perhaps still limited understanding for the pain that that entails.

    Good luck and Merry Christmas

  4. What a moving post as all your posts of Abdullah are. When you write of him you keep his memory alive. Thank you for reminding me how very lucky i am to stll have my partner. Compliments of the season Carol, Thanks for a excellent blog.!~

  5. hope you enjoy your grandson and his happiness carol, yes passing this season seems to be a scary feat. this too shall pass

  6. I am a positive and upbeat person but the recent news of Elizabeth Edward’s death to the big C also has me in an introspective mood.

    I enjoy and am grateful for all the blessings in my life. My Grandson and soon-to-arrive Grandson #2 are the brightest spots in my life…I wish Abdullah could be beside me to share these special moments.

  7. Allah yir7amoo, may Allah have mercy on him and may you see him again in the next life.

  8. @Occupied Brain: Shukran aleki. Insha’allah.

  9. “bearing beautiful treasures of Arabia” That sounds sumptuous!

    I am very sorry for your loss, but it is beautiful to read of the love you shared.

  10. Carol, feel extremely sorry for you. My hearty condolences. Parting is always painful, but life has to move on. May Almighty give you the strength to bear this loss and courage to face the realities of life.

  11. Thanks, Expatguru.

    My thoughts now are very much with the Edwards family and their loss of Elizabeth. Why can’t a cure be found for these cancers???

  12. Carol, Abdullah is beside you…every day. Don’t forget that. By our memories we keep our loved ones with us. I would love to hear more about your holidays together. I can only imagine how special they were.

  13. Oh, Carol, I feel your pain. The season has been difficult for us the last couple years due to my daughter’s estrangement from the family and my mother in law’s death last December. But, I know this year is going to be the most difficult with the additional losses of my father in law and my son and I am trying to brace myself for that. I just hope that my daughter comes around and brings that baby because he was the only thing that could bring a smile to my face after my son’s death.

  14. @Ayah,

    Thanks, Ayah. You’re right…he is beside me. Speaking of memories I will never forget the look of wonder and enrapture on his face the first time we were visited by young carolers while living in the States. He was amazed that the youth would group together and go from house-to-house in the evening cold and sing Christmas songs at the doors of strangers.

  15. Dear Lynn,

    I really do not know what to say as there are no sufficient words. I had no idea of the magnitude of all your losses. I will pray that your holiday time will include lots of time with your Grandchild for I understand very well how a Grandbaby provides motivation to move forward in life.

    (big warm virtual hug)

  16. Carol, I love how you make Abdullah come alive before my eyes. Arab Santa Claus. Stringing lights. Stuffing stockings….and this:

    “Abdullah had this way of finding a comfortable place to sit where he would slowly sip his coffee and watch everyone’s delights of joy and surprise as they opened gifts. He’d sit quietly with a satisfied smile on his face.”

    I could picture him doing all these things. What a beautiful post! I pray God will give you His peace during this time.

    Lynn, your comment made me sad. I am so sorry for the losses in you life especially this past year concerning your son. Wishing you peace and comfort. (Hugs!)

  17. Carol and Susanne, Thank you for the hugs and prayers. Tomorrow will be 2 months since my 18 yr old son’s sudden death so this is still pretty fresh for us but I think we are holding up fairly well and we are hopeful that perhaps this will be a wake up call for his sister as he was her only sibling but I don’t know…

    Carol, this post was a beautiful tribute to the love and good memories that you shared with your husband, I’m sorry if I put a damper on that. Cherish those memories. Last night my husband and I attended a grief support group on coping with the holidays and they gave us suggestions on how to remember and honor our loved one. This post was perfect for that.

  18. Lynn, I’m glad you shared about your loss. I hope we can encourage you somehow. I was reading about Elizabeth Edwards last night in our local paper and it told how she used to carry a picture of her son with her and if thoughts of Wade overwhelmed her if she were in a restaurant, she’d excuse herself to the restroom and show his picture and talk about him to whoever happened to be there. She said it was so good to just talk about her son. I know not everyone grieves the same way, but if you ever want to share about him or your struggles, I hope you will.

  19. Oh Lynn! I can’t even imagine your loss! May you find peace and times of respite in your grief.

    I also like the descriptions that Susanne mentioned, they are heartwarming!

  20. @Lynn,

    Please feel free to share at anytime whether through the blog or if you wish to email directly ( You’re right – everyone processes grief differently and I am there to listen.

    Counseling sessions and support groups are a great way of coping, especially that sense of knowing you are not alone and others can understand only too well the sense of loss.

    I find it difficult that a typical Saudi way of coping with grief and loss is to really not address it. It seems like many Saudis have a more matter of fact attitude about loss or they are masters at burying the emotions so that they do not show.

  21. “I find it difficult that a typical Saudi way of coping with grief and loss is to really not address it. It seems like many Saudis have a more matter of fact attitude about loss or they are masters at burying the emotions so that they do not show.”

    Feelings vs. Faith vs. Society.

    Faith and common sense encourages that you deal with your feelings and pray, and encourages people to support you and stand with you if you need it, or respect your feelings if you can’t stand the sight of people.

    Society expects you to serve them coffee and cake at the funeral.

    Such Detached People.

  22. Oh my dear Lynn, I feel so much for you now I hear what you have been going through and are going through now.

    Christmas and new year’s eve were especially difficult times for me as we used to have such wonderful family gatherings, and I almost always spend New year’s even with my parents as they were my favorite people.
    Last year went well though, and this year is going well too. I wish I could invite you and cook you something nice and spoil you Lynn.

    Carol, I will be spending time with you, I have an option on a ticket, so we should be thinking of dates.

  23. Kristine and Aafke, thank you for the good wishes.
    We are just taking it one day at a time and we are not expecting too much of ourselves but we are going to host Christmas at our house so that we are forced to keep busy and not just crawl under the covers. This evening we are going to an event in honor of International Children’s Memorial Day. ‘The local ceremony includes the candle-lighting at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the world-wide candle-lighting. The idea is that, as candles burn down in one time zone, they’re lit in another, creating a 24-hour memorial’
    It is a candle lighting ceremony where they are going to light candles and say the names of all those who were ‘lost too soon’. That is being put on by an organisation called Compassionate Friends. They have weekly meetings and do grief support things like this candle lighting and I am sure that we will be attending these meeting eventually.

    ‘It seems like many Saudis have a more matter of fact attitude about loss or they are masters at burying the emotions so that they do not show’

    I can see this. If your belief is that nothing happens that is not God’s will and you respect everything that He wills then how could you possibly grieve? However, if I believed that everything was God’s will I would be pretty damned pissed off that he would will such a tragedy! FYI: My daughter won’t be attending the candle lighting ceremony with us. I guess she ‘isn’t into that kind of thing’.

    ‘Society expects you to serve them coffee and cake at the funeral’

    Is that the Saudi society? Because mine brought me so much food that I had to send some home with people. Some Muslim women even came by a week later and brought food. We did have luncheons at restaurants after the funerals that we paid for but if we hadn’t I don’t think that anyone would have thought anything of it. My mother’s church (volunteers) put on a funeral luncheon at the church after her funeral.

  24. @Aafke – this is absolutely wonderful news. I was at a function last night with the couple who collected Tripod and Saheba from Washington. They asked about you and expressed their desire to meet you! How cool that this wish will come true. I look forward to hearing from you so we can plan and coordinate!!!

  25. The last paragraph made my eyes full of water. I hope I’ll love someone as much as you love your husband.

    May he rest in peace.

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