What Would Ahlam Do?
“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person."
And some of those people who enter our lives for but a season, their impact is felt for a lifetime. This is especially true of Ahlam Shiekhoon (الله يرحمها- May Allah have mercy on her) whose path crossed with mine for a few months in 2003-2004 when we worked in the same college. I still think of her.
The last day I saw Ahlam, I was walking her to the exit of our college while planning with her my visit to her house the following week. She was to start her maternity leave the following day. Had I known this would be our last encounter, would it have been different? Would I have made a made a bigger effort to say good-bye? Perhaps it is a mercy on us that we don’t know when death will occur. This way we are called on to remain present and treat loved ones with kindness, for we do not know what tomorrow will bring.
When news of Ahlam's death arrived at our college, chaos hit the building. It was a chaos that reflected the profound shock and utter grief that had befallen us. For a time, it seemed as though even the world stopped as we all absorbed the news of her passing.
At the time, Ahlam was among 25 Saudi nurses who held a master’s of science degree in nursing. She was an Assistant to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and a lecturer at the College of Nursing & Allied Medical Sciences. But for those who knew her, knew she was much more than her credentials. She was a nurse, a teacher, mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a colleague, and an advocate. All these roles seemed to come natural to her.
Ahlam was a beautiful person. She was kind and warm, and often took on extra responsibilities because she was just that kind of person. She was dedicated to her students, work, education and to her family. And she knew what her priorities were. She put her family first even when work would often demand it come first. She understood what work –life balance looked like. How many of us women struggle with this aspect and are constantly pushed to choose one over the other?
Ahlam fought tooth and nail for what she thought was right and, especially hard, for those who she though were being mistreated. She was fierce, but when it all sometimes got too much for her, she would use one of her favorite quotes “يا قلبي يا كتكت بتسمع و تسكت” roughly translated to 'oh my little heart, just listen and I'm quite.
One of the things that inspired me the most about Ahlam was how aspects of her life were in alignment. The first time I entered her house was on the first day of the mourning period to give my condolences to her family. As soon I entered Ahlam's house, I knew I was in her home. Interestingly, my sister and my friend who were with me thought the same. She left her print in all that she touched. On the wall were sheets of paper with hand-written notes where the family got together and wrote their collective mission and vision statements as well as their collective and individual goals. She had applied everything she had learned in nursing and management into her home. This is how I wanted to be one day. It is a process that I still work towards. Perhaps I should begin asking myself W.W.A.D (what would Ahlam do?) and take it from there.
Days following the tragic news, I volunteered to clear out Ahlam's work office. I wanted the task to be given the respect it deserved. Although in the past I had often sat in her office for at least a few minutes every day, that day was different. It was the first time I really sat in her office. Every part of me sat with me. I breathed the air, listened to the sounds she might have heard and read every inspirational message on her corkboard. (If you are a member of her immediate family, please feel free to contact me to give you these office items.)
I had made many promises to myself on the day of her funeral and on the day I sat in her office. There are those that I honored and there are a few I have not fulfilled. I can now see why it has been suggested that we take stock of promises that we have made to the Universe and to other people and examine how we can finally fulfill them. There is a heaviness on us that our psyche produces to remind us of these promises and this weight often lingers until we put it to rest. And so, once again, the beauty that was Ahlam has once again taught me a great lesson I will take heed of. Her impact will forever be with me and all those she has touched.
PS: Thank you, dear friend, Manal AlMakoshi for being the second pair of eyes to read this column and for sharing your memories with me. It was your friendship with Ahlam which first made me realize I wanted to be friends with you. All these years later, our bond became stronger. May we always remember Ahlam and be inspired by her.
March is International Woman’s Month and in honor of incredible women around the world Think of a woman who inspires you. Ask yourself what you can do today to honor that inspiration? And as usual, am here if you need a hand. Just contact me for your complimentary 30-minute session to brainstorm ways to honor her. Don’t forget to mention the word “Ahlam”
Lots of Love to You
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An Inspirational Message From Ahlam’s Cork Wall:
To Remember Me by Robert N. Test.
The day will come when my body will lie upon a white neatly tucked four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens, do not attempt to install artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my deathbed. Let it be called the bed of life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.
Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face, or love in the eyes of a woman.
Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.
Give my blood to the teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.
Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.
Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.
Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window
Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow,
If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses, and all prejudice against my fellow man.
Give my sins to the devil.
Give my soul to God.
If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you.
If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.
 Author Unknown