Sister to the world: Remembering and the Passing

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 12th Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Bereavement

Aisha, was my wife, Afroz's, mother but she has a special place in my heart and a few days ago she appeared in a dream telling me to write down my memories about both her and my father using my skills as a writer, a challenge I could not resist. I have to say Aisha has a special place in the heart of all that knew her, whether or not they were part of her family.

Special Lady

I have been thinking about a special lady, who sadly died during the past year, she meant a lot to me, and much to all who knew her, yet she and I were from such different cultures yet I owe so much and am thankful to have known and been a part of her life for over a quarter of a century, she was my mother-in-law, after I had proposed to her daughter she said, simply "I am ready" as her way of welcoming me to the family, she made me the happiest man alive and I remain that way today.

There were more than fifty people crammed around her hospital bed in London, that day last May, when she died, many we had not seen for a long time. It was a sad moment for all present and for many, more that came to pay their respects at her funeral or visited her humble London home over the next few days.

Humble Beginnings

Aisha, known as Bai (or sister) to most who knew her came from rural India, married and emigrated to Kenya, before migrating again to London in the 1980s, which is where I met her daughter, Afroz, she shared a birthday with my father which in a strange way made a connection between our families stronger.

She always claimed her English was poor, yet that never stopped her communicating with anyone around her in a multitude of ways and she was always passionate about people and the good they were capable of, and even if she were a simple village girl it never showed in the things she achieved, and she was more than just a mother to her children and matriarch to the wider family or community, where she was well respected.

Even though her husband died while she was in her 30s she never accepted any proposals for marriage, and there were many, out of loyalty to her children, who were all important even when they had grown up and built their own families.

Courage and Belief

She was a devoted Muslim, but to Aisha people mattered irrespective of their religion and even those who had no religious conviction, she believed we could all get on together and build a world that was tolerant of differences and able to achieve things for the common good of humanity.

Despite all the things people do in their lives what marks them out as different is through the courageous steps they take at certain moments, following their beliefs, even when others disagree. For Aisha going to Iraq as a part of the peace protesters during the height of the first Gulf War (at the beginning of 1991) was such a moment, a bold step that no one in the family liked, but she was determined and all we could do was wish her a safe return. These were tense times as the news about war in Kuwait took on a more personal nature, just as it would for the family of any combatants, the allied forces turned their attention from the recapture of Kuwait to the question of whether to invade Iraq all the while bombing sorties were flown daily into Iraqi territory and the occasional mention of the peace camps inside the beleaguered country.

It was about 90 days after her departure when I heard a CNN report from Baghdad's Rasheed Hotel where in a telephone interview the reporter stated "We have been joined today by members of the Peace Camp, who shall be departing for Syria tomorrow, this group is made up of many American and European nationals plus two Indian ladies", this was the first time we knew mum was alive and well, the other "Indian lady" was someone who was related, of course the reporter had their nationalities wrong, but that hardly seemed to matter. All of the coverage we had previously seen from this hotel showed bombing raids and the devastation around, Baghdad had suffered major devastation in the preceding days.

Some months later we travelled, with mum, to a village just outside of Stuttgart to visit Gerhard and his wife who had both been members of this Peace Camp mission in Iraq. Peace and a willingness to get on with each other has always been at the heart of Aisha's beliefs and she has always been been charitable at heart, spending money to help others when we said she should spend the money on herself is a part of her giving nature.


Losing a loved one hurts and I know that for Afroz there has been much pain and much contemplation over the last few months, the new year is one where we know we must venture out alone and fill some of the void we have now become the senior generation, even though we do not feel old. Was this something we have sought? No, but neither did we desire it, time ticks on and the focus changes and we have to accept that.

We are still grieving and that will go on for some time and the following poem, by Islamic poet Rumi expresses these feelings well:

    Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
    Upto where you're bravely working.

    Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
    Here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

    Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
    If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed

    Your deepest presence is in every small thing.
    Contracting and expanding.
    The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.

This poem is called "Birdwings" and expresses the sadness in our family and mum's joyful face is something we desire to see, but sadly it is gone forever other than in our mind's eye. I have been told that pictures in the mind fade in time, this has not been the case for my father and I doubt it will be for my mother-in-law either, for now her deepest presence is in every small thing but this is natural I guess.

Mother to Many

Aisha had ten children in total of which seven survived to adulthood, Anwar, Naseer, Ashraf, Hussain, Afroz, Akbar, and Firoz, although two of these Ashraf and Hussain died several years ago, which saddened her greatly, she also had 15 grandchildren. Apart from her natural children she also suckled other kids at various times and she has been surrogate mother to many, such was her love for everyone and at least three people told me at the funeral how she was as much a mother to them as their real mother and to a large extent I feel that way as well.

How do you sum up the life of a great person? You may not have known her, but Aisha Bai Juma Khan was blessed with that same gene of love, purity and giving possessed by Mother Theresa, those who knew her will bear witness to this.


Aisha, Aisha Bai, Baghdad, Belief, Birdwings, Courage, Devoted Muslim, Humble Beginnings, India, Khan, London, Migrating, Mombasa, Mother To Many, Peace Camp, Peace Protester, Special Lady

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
12th Jan 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Peter; what a wonderful tribute to a inspirational woman. You, her family, and those who knew her were fortunate to have her in their lives. Thank you for sharing this personal side with the rest of us. I think all of us may know someone like that and the idea of simply writing about them for no other reason than to acknowledge their value makes me proud to be on a site with you. Again, thank you for this. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
12th Jan 2014 (#)

Indeed she sounds like a wonderful woman I am sure she will be proud of this tribute which she requested for you to write in her honor

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author avatar Connie McKinney
13th Jan 2014 (#)

She sounds like a special lady. What a beautiful tribute to her.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
13th Jan 2014 (#)

What a beautiful tribute. How fortunate we are to have the good folks in our lives.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
13th Jan 2014 (#)

Ditto to the above. A nice tribute to a wonderful woman. Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
13th Jan 2014 (#)

Thanks Peter for a touching tribute that shows cultural barriers are created by us, but we belong to single humanity. She lived for others and that is the key to her being loved by all. Her life is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise selfish world and, sadly, becoming more so by the day - siva

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
14th Jan 2014 (#)

I can only add to all the above accolades to your dear mother-in-law , a heartfelt thank you Peter for sharing her and your good memories of her with us all here.
May the loss of her become bearable for you all.
Bless you

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author avatar Ptrikha
18th Jan 2014 (#)

Great tribute and you indeed have a strong India connect :)

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author avatar princessgalaria
27th Jan 2014 (#)

Hats off to the special lady....:) wonderfully written tribute.:))

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author avatar Mariah
16th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you for the introduction to this warm, caring and admirable
lady Peter.

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