We knew her as a mother of men, a mother to all but back when she was younger she was a girl who would not conform to what she believed was unfair, to what she saw as unjust. She was a girl who possessed the courage to put an end to what was in her eyes, even then, demeaning. It was a time when this country was nothing more than a gathering of tribes. She grew up in it not as we know it today, she lived in a UAE that was tight-knit, sheltered and unexposed.
It was a time when child marriages were the norm, a place where a sign of a man's wealth was revealed by the number of wives he had, and women’s rights were those that were given to them by men. Even then, she stood tall, resisted an early marriage and refused to be treated like a possession. It was her choice to raise her two boys as a single mother, two boys who grew up to be men who played a pivotal role in shaping the country we know today.
Everyone has heard of her two sons but not many have heard of the great woman behind these great men.
My grandmother was the first feminist I have ever known. She spoke of a woman's right and the preservation of her pride and dignity at a time when such ideas seemed taboo. She believed that a woman's education was her most prized possession and that her independence is a right not a luxury bestowed upon her. As a child I grew up listening to her stories of the harsh yet innocent times of her youth, of her struggles in raising her boys with the help of only her mother. I heard many times of her heartbreak at sending her boys off to Kuwait to get an education that she could never have. And about the many years she longed to see them at a time when communications were confined to letters that she could not read.
She was a woman who loved life and the people in it. She recited poetry, loved music and had a sense of humour that remained with her to the very end. She was the woman who taught me that speaking one's mind and standing up for one's rights should be done gracefully and without disrespect for opposing views. She was a mother to all who knew her and to this day fondly call her "Mama Sheikha".
I know that my words will never do her justice for she was the greatest part of my life. The void she left can never be filled no matter how many words I throw into it. She was my link to a life I never lived but, through her eyes, grew to love.
Loss is the absence of a part of you, you hold dear. In life, death is the absolute loss. We are taught that death is inevitable yet that never makes it any less cruel. Death is always sudden no matter how prepared you are for it. Death is always sudden, death is always cruel.
My grandmother lost a son eleven years ago, his absence broke her spirit and she was never the same again. Eleven years later and only one week before her son's death anniversary she chose to leave us. And just like in life, in death she left gracefully and quietly. She was by my side since the day I came into this world and when she left it I was by hers.
She was my father's mother, she was my mother, she was and still is the strongest woman I have ever met.
May she rest in eternal peace knowing that she will forever remain in our hearts.
This article was first published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 12 May, 2013. Arabic version was published in Al Khaleej newspaper http://bit.ly/10P6vT3