I just wanted to briefly share some thoughts that I’ve been having lately. This is not an entry exclusively about the death of Hollywood star Heath Ledger (pictured above) who passed away last week; it’s actually more about reflecting upon the loss of all human beings.
The other day, I was standing in line at my local Border’s bookstore
and a particular magazine cover caught my eye. I’m not sure if it was People or Time magazine, but the headline read something like: STARS GONE TOO SOON. And there was a collage of pictures of young celebrities who passed away too soon. Actors and celebrities like River Phoenix, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, etc. I was standing there and immediately thought about how we don’t know these people personally, yet we grieve for them as if we do. We see their faces on television and silver screens, we admire their talents, their good looks, their performances, and although do not know them, we’re strangely able to make a personal connection. Then I thought about the countless number of Iraqis, Afghanis, Kashmiris, Chechens, and Palestinians who have been either bombed, shot, stabbed, poisoned, or God knows what other kind of horrible death they experienced. My thoughts continued; I thought about how some old man in Japan could be passing away right now in his hospital bed, or some old grandmother kissing her children goodbye as the hour of death comes near. I thought about that beautiful young Kurdish girl who was brutally stoned to death by heartless extremists, and then about the poor children who starve to death in Somalia. I thought about the children in Gaza who are without food and electricity. I thought about downtown Philadelphia where some desperate thieves rob a store and accidentally shoot the clerk behind the counter. I thought about the Indian Sikh who was mistaken for an Arab Muslim and murdered by an ignorant bigot. I thought of those who are murdered and forgotten by humanity itself. Who are these faceless people? Who are their families? Who are their loved ones?
Then it was time for me to pay for my book, but I couldn’t stop thinking. As I drove home, I looked at the cars driving by and just meditated on the thought that each and every individual has a story, each person has value, each human being has something special to share in this world. What happens when these fellow beings — our fellow travelers in life — pass away? Are their stories broadcasted on the news? Do we ever give them any thought? Their friends, family, and Loved ones would grieve their losses and hold a funeral, but the world just keeps moving. Everyone outside that circle is playing their video games, partying with friends, going out to dinner, buying tickets for a new concert, debating about who should win the election, chatting online, going to school, going to work, and etc. Yet when a celebrity dies tragically like Heath Ledger, the whole nation (or even world) acknowledges it. While we return to the daily functions of life, we begin to discuss his death. We pick up the phone and call our friend or our brother or sister, “Oh my God, did you hear what happened?” What about your neighbor who just lost his/her mother, or that little boy who died of cancer? I’m sure their families, friends, and Loved ones would Love for the rest of the world to know how special those people were/are to them. I’m sure they would Love to tell us how righteous, friendly, or compassionate those people were, or tell us how that particular person meant the world to them. Imagine if we all could hear the stories of these people, imagine the teenager who says proudly, “my grandfather built this place,” or the widower who says, “she may not have been on billboards, but she was the woman of my dreams,” or the grieving mother who says, “my son gave his best to the world and I’m very proud of him.”
I once read that the Universe is not filled with stars, but with stories. Everyone has a story. Mr. Ledger was one of my favorite actors and I believe he has shared an enormous talent with the world, and may have touched the lives of many people. I also believe that the countless other human beings who have died should not be forgotten either, even though we’ll never know their names, their stories, or their faces. They, along with Heath, can be remembered through prayer, through meditation, or even through a mere thought.I just thought it would be nice if we could remember all those people who have passed away the next time we pray or the next time we hold a moment of silence. Think about how so many people in this world mean so much to another person or another group of people. Think about how special we all are to one another and how precious this life truly is. Let’s make sure no one is forgotten. In Islam, we are taught to never underestimate the power of prayer and that those who have died are not dead, but they actually live on in spirit. I know that there are many of you in this note who devote much of your time to helping people and I honestly cannot think of anything better than that. Many of us help without even knowing it. Even a smile, said Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), can be charity. May God bless you all, keep us happy, and grant peace to those who have passed on.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi Raje’un
From God do we come, and to Him do we return
Thanks for reading. Salaam/Peace.