My Mother Was a Woman, Too

I was twenty years old when my mother passed away. I had a great relationship with her, though her great career prevented us from spending as much time together as I’m sure we both would have liked.

My mother had cancer for three years before she died, so it was not sudden or unexpected. It was painful, nonetheless, but I did not start grieving until about a month after she passed, when all the funeral-related tasks were done and I went back to college. After my first day of class, I went back to my dorm room and picked up the phone to call my mother. Suddenly I remembered that she was not home, and I cried deeply for the first time since she died.

What I did not expect was that though my crying and “grieving” got less frequent with the passing of time, I missed her more with every passing year. I was four when we attended my mother’s graduation for her PhD; she was not there when I graduated from the same university. When I became Muslim and had a rough time with family, she was not there to comfort me. When I got married, she was not there to “give me away.” When I was pregnant, I could not compare my pregnancy to hers, or ask for advice. And when I delivered Khadijah, she was the only one missing from the hospital room family picture. And with every milestone, her absence hurt more and more.

I realized at some point, that I missed her so much more because I was becoming a woman. In slowly learning what it meant to be a woman, I understood her more, and more than ever wanted her by my side. I also realized that I never got a real opportunity to get to know her as an individual. I knew her as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a Dean – but not just as Arpita Agrawal Mishra. She had been an artist and a poet in her youth, but did not continue these pursuits after marriage. I now find myself reading her book of poetry (very slowly as my Hindi reading fluency is elementary), trying hard to understand her words. If only I had read it with her, as she told me exactly what was going on in her 20-year-old mind when she wrote it.

While I can not change the past, I certainly intend to create a different future. I hope that in my struggle to fulfill all of my (seemingly) million roles – mother, wife, student, Islamic worker, daughter, friend – I do not forget that in the final analysis I am really Bhawana Mishra Kamil, an individual, a woman, with interests and talents, shortcomings and weaknesses, joys and pains. And I hope that my children come to know me as that person, not just their mother. After all, in the end, I will stand in front of Allah (swt) – not in virtue of my relationship to anyone else – but as an individual, utterly alone.

by Bhawana Kamil

Bhawana Kamil lives in Santa Clara, CA with her husband and daughter. She is pursuing a Masters degree in Philosophy and is the head of her local MAS Outreach Department – but only on the side. Her real job is watching (and hopefully helping) her little girl grow up!


About Marwa Aly
  • kariman

    jazaki Allahu khairan for the reminder Bhawana–beautifully written!

  • kelly

    Bhawana- jazakallahu khairan for sharing. your words, your thoughts- this is so beautiful. ma’sha Allah. i feel your pain. i just asked mom last week if she misses paa paa (my grandmother, her mom, who died around 20 years ago.) and she said a definitive yes. we speak of my paa paa, often when something special happens, a birth, a marriage, or even something ordinary that reminds us of her or how she’d laugh at something.

    i am very close to my mom. lately, and more than usual, i’m reflecting and contemplating so much about her, all the stuff we’re going thru together and individually. and how we’re growing old together and entering yet again, a new phase in our life. every moment is precious. every moment is precious. with love, kelly

  • Fatima

    I cried. Thank you for moving me.

  • Sumayah

    Insha’allah, I hope my children will also remember me as “an individual, a woman, with interests and talents, shortcomings and weaknesses, joys and pains…. not just their mother.”

    JAK, you touched my heart.

  • Maryam

    This post describes so beautifully and poignantly what it really means to know ourselves and those close to us. There is so much power and emotion found in family relationships, whether it’s with a mother, a brother, a daughter… which is good thing, not bad. But I think we tend to get caught up in the intensity of those roles. It becomes so easy to get lost in a relationship and forget that there is so much more to ourselves and those close to us than what those roles signify. This post is a very stirring reminder to me that we are all individuals before anything else.

  • Hanan

    My heart is in my eyes as I read this post…You know when your tears are gathering…not yet falling just burning? I lost my mother 4 years ago, when I was 35. She shared many of those important moments and I am so grateful for every drop of time we had. I have since had another baby that she will never know. The baby she did know is now 17 years old and will likely be a mother herself in a few short years. Since her death until now, I dream about my mother every few weeks…no sunbeams or heavenly chorus. I can feel her and smell her hair. She sometimes is wearing that faded denim coat of hers that I still wear when I go for walks outside. Sometimes she is still sick, like just before she died. Sometimes, I know she has been cured. In every dream, I always know she won’t be here long but she never does. I used try to communicate with her and remind her that she has been absent, missed, longed for. I realized though that all that talk just wastes the dream. So now I just get as close to her as I can and breathe deeply and look long into her face. We finish the dream together…mostly mundane stuff as dreams tend to be. I sometimes wake up with a broken broken heart, but more often I just feel full. So breathtaking how Allah’s mercy permeates everything.

  • Sumayah

    AA Hanan,

    Tears in my eyes as I read your beautiful words. Thank-you for sharing.

  • Hamdi

    Dear sister,

    Your story broght me to tears. I felt like you when I lost my dad

    at a young age. We are all waiting for our day Insha’Allah.

    Sometimes I look at when a newborn baby can lose his mother.

    You have already made a wise decision to be closer to Allah (SWT).

    Allah (SWT) said:

    “And for men and women who engage much in Allah’s remembrance, for them has Allah prepred forgiveness and great reward”



  • fatima

    Wow hanan, mashaAllah, that was the most descriptive passage I’ve read of another person’s dreams. thank you for bringing it home.

  • Zainab

    MashaAllah very moving.

  • Maha

    Bhawana, this post touched me so deeply. As women, I think our relationship with our mothers, whether they are with us or have left this world, changes and deepens as we become mothers ourselves.

  • Leenah

    Very touching posts Sisters Bhawana & Hanan, mashaAllah

  • Um Lubayah

    My mom lives over seas, and I get to see her only every few years. When I moved to the U.S. I got caught up in life and would only sit down to email her every week or two.

    Two years ago I thought how much I would regret that when I lost her (or she lost me) and made the decision to write to her every day. Now it’s what I look forward to in the mornings: reading her letter, and writing back.