This story is based on my amazing and brave cousin Zahra's life story, a girl who has a heart filled with courage and love and continues to believe in a better tomorrow despite the struggles she went through.
"We'll be back, Zahra. Tend to the younger ones ," he shouted through the broken window as he drove
my dad's old truck and he made me giggle for a moment forgetting about Mom's sickness. Taking my
Mathematics book, I sat down trying to focus my mind on it yet I was unable to when I recalled Mom's tired face as she climbed into the truck. Previously, my caring mom and I would sit together in our yard under the refreshing shade of the sweet smelling orange tree and work out Math problems together. Now, everything had turned upside down; Mom was no longer able to complete the simplest of chores before she turned pale and had to sit down in pain. As I wondered whether we would ever share more of these beautiful memories, the painful reality struck me like a merciless sharp knife. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I buried my face in my Math book, letting out a sob. Little Majid came over, placing his small hand on my shoulder clearly puzzled at my sudden sobbing.
what was really happening to Mom. How could you explain to a young boy that he was going to lose his loving mother in a matter of days? How would it be possible to explain to his young mind that he would soon be left all alone in this world uncared for? It was impossible and thinking of my poor younger siblings who were about to face the biggest struggles of their lives, I cried even harder.
which was about an hour away where she could be taken care of and not worry about endless housework. We were able to visit her every few days and still feel her love, exchange with her our stories at school, and how we felt yet it didn't feel the same as when she was living with us. It was the next month, that when I came in Mom's room I knew something was terribly wrong and was going to lose her. I will never forget what she looked like. Her face once beautiful, radiant, and always smiling was now weak, exhausted, and pale with pain. She had lost much weight since her illness and lay exhausted under her blankets. My dad sat at her bedside, crying knowing that soon he was going to be parted with his wife. I walked slowly towards Mom with a heavy aching heart and fighting back my tears. She held me close to her, enveloping me in her warm hug and whispered in my ear, "My strong Zahra, take care of your father and siblings. Pray to God and He will always be there watching you, protecting you, my beautiful brave girl. Don't worry, we will meet in a better place." My heart seemed to stop beating when I saw Mom take her last breath. I ran to her bedside from tending to little Azza crying "Mom! Come back! Please come back, Mom!" Yet she was gone, unable to hear my sobbing.
Watching my siblings gather around her with wide eyes, almost broke my heart and I choked on my tears, no longer able to hold them back. I could not believe she had left us. Our real struggles would now begin.
Fatima. I marveled at their clothing, all clean looking and new. Even though I was overjoyed to see my family happy with the gifts, I wished my uncle would not tire himself about it. He had a growing family and I knew life in America wasn't as easy as we saw on the movies. From his conversations with us on the phone where we talked about everything from the cold weather there to how school was going in Algeria, I could tell that he worked long tiring hours to earn what he had. Money didn't grow off trees there as many here assumed. Looking back at my teenage years, there are a lot of memories that bring tears to my eyes. Specifically moments that involved my poor younger siblings suffering. One that breaks my heart is remembering one day when I found little Majid crying in the closet.
Pain filled my heart as he looked up teary eyed explaining, "I don't have any money to buy a pencil for my homework."
to my grandparents' house about a month after Mom's death as I was unable to take care of a baby in addition to the others and at the same time keep up my grades in school. During the visit she asked me a question I will never forget, "When will Mom come?"
It hurt me to lie to her yet what else could I have done? It wasn't exactly a lie since we would be together in paradise one day yet it was still dancing around the truth. When I got home however, I cried my heart out remembering my sister's innocent and sincere face.
daughter, Amina, and would be coming to Algeria soon where we would all get to meet again and see the new baby. I was delighted to see my young cousins, American aunt, and loving uncle again. Being able to spend time with them would help enhance my English skills and improve my performance in English class as well. I was thrilled!
exam and I felt a bit nervous about it yet I reminded myself about my past excellent scores to boost my confidence. I knew I had to be positive in order to succeed.
summer days beautiful memories in my heart. My uncle and his family returned to America, and gave us permission to stay in the villa even when they weren't there yet. I had to return with my siblings to Ain Sefra for school. My teachers were surprised at how much my English had improved and my friends joked that I was now speaking like an American. Since my workload at home had decreased with my siblings mostly taking care of themselves, I was more able to focus on school and do independent research on how to prepare for the exams. The week that I completed the exams was one of the most nerve racking weeks I ever experienced. When I entered my home the evening I had took the last test, I let out a big sigh of relief. As for the month that I had to wait to find out the results, it was filled with restlessness and tension. Ma encouraged me by saying that she would keep me in my prayers and that she was assured I would score higher than all the other students. I however, didn't feel as sure of myself as she did of me, even though I had perfect scores from all past exams. If I was off by even a tiny bit, I would have to redo the whole year. When I thought of this my head whirled and
pulse quickened. Would I have to go through all that stress again? I forced myself to think of something else instead of worrying myself sick about what I now couldn't do anything to change. I already took my exams and whatever the score was going to be could no longer be modified.
as I could toward my school. Today was the big day when I would found out if I was to have the biggest
celebration in my life yet or spend the rest of the week crying and then redo the whole thing again. As I walked in the school building, I could see my classmates shared my feelings and anxiousness. I bade my family to follow me to the big TV that would reveal the scores. However as I entered, I felt a sickness in my stomach and my palms were wet with sweat. I knew I wouldn't bare to look at that board and find out so I asked Rahma to do it for me while I closed my eyes and placed my hand on my heart. There were a mix of feelings in the room as I heard shouts of joy coming from the successful students and sobs from the failing ones. I bit my lower lip and held my breath waiting for Rahma to say something when I was suddenly embraced by Rahma and all of a sudden everyone was shouting out joyfully and laughing. Unable to believe that I had succeeded, I looked up at the board and searched for my name. But yes, in fact, I had! I had previously expected that I would be very happy and laugh if I won yet what happened was I fell to my knees on the floor crying. I cried because I had finished my high school with grades of excellence and I was happy. I cried because now I could stop worrying about exams and actually get a good night's sleep. I cried for many reasons but most of all I cried because I had just accomplished one of my the biggest achievements in my life and Mom was not here to share the joy with me.
Although nobody could ever replace Mom and I missed her a lot, I felt as though I had fulfilled what she asked me to do, taking care of my siblings. Somehow, I felt as though if she were with me today she would feel proud of me and just knowing that brought a smile to my face and eased my heart.