This We Have Now (by Rumi)

my brother Datu, host of our family get-together, and proud of the spread before us

my brother Datu, host of our family get-together, and proud of the spread before us

I’ve been crying at the drop of a hat this past few weeks. For the first time, in a very long time, my family was pretty much complete. Except for my sister and her family in LA, we were pretty much complete and it hasn’t been that way in such a long, long time.

We did what we always did as a family: we cooked our Christmas Eve dinner. We had decided on the menu weeks before and we all gathered around the kitchen and dining room table and put everything together ourselves. The members of the family who didn’t cook provided conversation and the ones who did, or the ones like me who were good  at preparing — chopping, cutting, stuffing, etc. — jumped from one dish to the next and laughed and sing to Christmas carols playing on the speakers.

We then dressed up for dinner and before we began, the youngest member, my niece, started the prayer and then I stood up to read a poem. I went through my E-Book of Rumi poems on my phone and found one that was perfect for the occasion. I read it and my Mom started getting teary-eyed. My Dad gave a speech and then I started to cry. My eldest brother gave a toast and I just kept crying. We ate and had fun and made fun of each other (as we are wont to do) but this warm feeling kept flowing through me — and it wasn’t the wine, that’s for sure, since I didn’t drink too much. I just had a glass.

We gathered around the living room and we just talked and at one quiet point, while others sent text messages through their phones and my Mom talked to her brother in Virginia, I just started to cry. My family, as complete as we could be, three generations of us, and my brother’s wives who were so integral to the dynamic, it was as if they were fated to be a part of my family.

Christmas came and I was a mess but I was a happy, bright, thankful mess. At 2am, my sister sent me a message through Whatsapp and I set up my computer so that she could see everyone and for one brief moment — that was it. We were complete. I had spoken to my sister the day before so it was perfectly fine for me to leave it with my Dad and Mom who were so happy to see her and their grandchildren. I took a step back, stayed at the far end of the room so that I can see all of them in my range of vision. They were all there in sight — my family.

It doesn’t matter what you believe in. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you are and what drives you everyday; this is what Christmas is about.

The family gathering around right before Christmas Eve dinner

The family gathering around right before Christmas Eve dinner

Five years ago, I didn’t know if I was going to see another Christmas. I thought it was going to be my last and I was never going to spend one again and then there I was, last night, and I have nothing to complain about, really. My family is well, some are struggling but we were all there, bounded and bonded by love.

I believe in love. I believe in family. It’s the same thing, really, isn’t it?

This is what Christmas is about.

What else could human beings want?

 

This We Have Now

by Rumi

 

This we have now

is not imagination.

 

This is not grief,

or joy, not a judging state,

or an elation, or a sadness.

 

Those come and go.

This is the presence

that doesn’t.

 

It’s dawn, Hussam,

here in the splendor or coral,

inside the Friend, in the simple truth

of what Hallaj said.

 

What else could human beings want?

 

When grapes turn to wine,

they’re wanting this.

 

When the night sky pours by.

it’s really a crowd of beggars,

and they all want some of this.

 

This we are now

created the body, cell by cell,

like bees building a honeycomb.

 

The human body and the universe

grew from this, not this

from the universe and the human body.

 

(translated by Coleman Barks)

 

 

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