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Part 30
New York, Tuesday May 3

7:07 a.m.
I woke up from the sharp pain in my neck. I opened my eyes and at first didn't realize where I was or what I was doing here. Then the memories, unfortunately, came back.

We had a little scuffle last night with the hospital nurses and staff about whether we could stay overnight in bAbA's room to watch over him. As I was about to turn into my mother (Oh the horror!) and start a full-blown third world war, Nurse Amber thankfully materialized before our eyes and like Henry Kissinger she was able to negotiate a deal after much shuttle diplomacy.

We could stay with bAbA.

So that's why I woke up with my head against the wall of the hospital room, feeling as if my neck had been wound up counter clockwise during the night. My feet were resting on another chair in front of me and a meagre hospital blanket was all that stood before me and the unbearable conditioned air of the room. BAbA was sleeping safely in his bed and my mom was tucked away on a couch somewhere in the Nurse's lounge, thanks to dear Amber.

Thursday May 5

6:23 p.m.
Our 24 hour vigil continues...

I have taken to wandering in the halls of the hospital, until the smell of sickness and death becomes unbearable and then I go outside. But we have been hit with an unseasonable heat wave and the humidity doesn't allow me to breathe outside either.

Today though, the sound of thunder startled me and as I looked outside the window, I realized a rain shower was finally going to break through the condensed air. I hastily made my way down to the lobby, then outside the doors. People were huddled around the door not daring to venture outside. The rain drops were coming in thick and tight. Seemed like the angels were throwing millions of big buckets of water down from the clouds. I took one step outside and instantly I was soaked. I took another step and stood in the rain for a moment. The force of the rain drops had made my hair stick to my head. I brushed them aside from my eyes. I started walking. My clothes were by now so wet, I could feel the rain drops running inside of them, against my skin, from the top of my neck to the inside of my pants, down to my toes. The feeling of freshness was exhilarating after the days of humidity we had had. I felt like I had been finally liberated from a prison and I was allowed to roam free in the wild. The streets were deserted and even traffic had slowed down as many cars had pulled to the side of the road, scared by this torrential outburst. Not me though, I was not slowing down by any means. In fact, I felt a new energy. The steps that I was taking quickly turned into running, then sprinting. I don't know where this rush of adrenaline came from all of the sudden but I remember it was only when the rain stopped that I finally stopped running.

Saturday May 7

4:45 p.m.
Manny and Bruce came over this week-end to stay. They have been shuttling mAmAn and I back and forth to the hospital, and also make sure we eat properly. I feel guilty taking even a bite while my father is lying there in that grim hospital bed, rejecting every bit of food that they try to force down his throat. Yet my body has no idea what my mind is thinking (or it simply does not care!) and demands food from me like an angry dictator.

I love Manny and Bruce but I also resent them. I know I sound like an ungrateful bitch but it's like I DON'T WANT their comfort. The words, "I know what you are going through" do not carry an ounce of weight with me right now.

I just want to wallow in my grief, sink as deeply as possible in it and let it consume me. Well, that is all the more reason why I should accept their help, Elia tells me. I guess he's right, it's probably a good thing they are here. They don't allow me to sink into despair. I wonder how Elia can do this by himself. I am not alone, he answers me, I have my faith.

Monday May 9

4:45 p.m.
Dr. Flaherty says tomorrow they will be conducting some tests to see if the chemo has had any positive results or if my dad has entered the second stage of this disease despite the medical treatment. How can I possibly live until then? My nails are bitten down to the bone at this point and my mom just screamed at me for not having a manicure!!! That is okay, she is just taking out all her frustration, nervousness and fear on me. At least, I feel useful now!

Tuesday May 10

10:13 p.m.
I just had a heart to heart with my father... Nurse Amber came to get me while my mother was getting some sleep at home.

I walked into his room and sat on the bed. I tried to avoid his eyes because I didn't want him to read into mine how scared I am. Lousy actress I am!

When he began to tell me to watch out for mom after he is... I couldn't stand it, I started bawling right there, and hated myself for it. Instead of me being a support for my bAbA, he had to put his weak arms around me and comfort me.

He told me he is not depressed or scared about his own death. That if I have fear, I have to talk about it to help break through that fear. He told me he thinks I am the stronger of the two, between my mom and I, which shocked me. I always thought of mAmAn as made of steel and me as a useless piece of marshmallow. BAbA laughed and told me steel can be broken but marshmallow is very flexible and will change shape if put under pressure but it won't break.

Wedbesday May 11

11:23 p.m.
I was sitting in the chapel alone and miserable when I heard the door behind me open and the steps of someone approaching me. When the person sat beside me I turned and saw, you won't believe this, the Dalai Lama! Well, it wasn't exactly the Dalai Lama, but it could have been a man belonging to his sect: A short middle-aged man, with an oriental looking face, and wearing an orange robe wrapped around his body. Behind a thick pair of eyeglasses, a pair of alert eyes, and a kind smile. He looked at me as if he knew me.

As soon as I saw this Buddhist monk, I suddenly felt comfort and calm ,where previously there was only fear and anxiety. As the soothing feelings were entering my mind, I could swear I saw dark shadows creeping from under my skin and flying away from me. Was I going crazy?

I tried to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming but it was like someone had wrapped me up in cotton sheets. I couldn't move my limbs, yet I was not uncomfortable nor fearful. I tried to speak to the monk but I couldn't. Instead he was speaking to me, although I could not see his lips move. Yet I could somehow hear his voice. It echoed inside my head.

He told me:

--" Nazanin, Look into the palm of your hand."

I glanced down to do as he said.

-- "Do you see any lines there?"

I nodded my head in a positive motion. It was all that I could do.

-- "Nazanin, those lines you see are your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. To be born means that something which did not exist comes into existence. But the day we are 'born' is not our beginning. And the day we are dead is not a termination. It is a day of continuation."

It was mind-boggling!

"Nazanin," the mysterious monk continued, "the suffering itself is not bad, it's the resentment against suffering that is the real pain. Close your eyes, let go of your resentment against suffering , and you will be in pain no more."

I closed my eyes as he instructed and repeated this mantra: The day we are "born" is not our beginning. And the day we are "dead" is not a termination. It is a day of continuation.

I don't remember much after that. Elia found me in the chapel and helped me up. I was lying face down on the floor and I have a bump in my forehead. I must have fainted, he tells me.

But I don't feel confused or disoriented or even miserable anymore. In fact, I feel peace and acceptance and I will face the news of tomorrow's test results with a newfound strength.

Maybe I too have finally found my faith.

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