Originally published 1 year ago … sadly, relevant now more than ever.
Our children are suffering. They may not say anything, or they may say a lot. But they hear the news. They see the headlines. They catch the sideways glares in public. But they don’t understand. They don’t comprehend why:
“Why did the store clerk watch me while I walked around the gas station?”
“Why does the airport security always stop Mom when we go on a trip?”
“Why doesn’t Donald Trump want me in my own country?”
The knee-jerk reaction is to explain it all away by saying, “They’re wrong. They’re misinformed.” But that’s not good enough. It doesn’t get to the core of the issue.
And the core of the issue is hate. Hate bred by fear. Hate bred by violence. Hate bred by the need to be included in “us” vs. “them”.
Everywhere we turn these days, we’re bombarded with tirades of hate. Each news article is heavy-laden with comments that induce indigestion, made by people who have one thing on their mind: “us vs. them”.
It has become an almost daily exercise in patience and creativity for many Muslims. Should I wear this outside? Should I go to this place alone? Should I stop for gas in this neighborhood? Can I get a job? Will I find housing?
But even if we can’t change the reality of the way things are, we can strive to teach our children how to better deal with the world around them. And to do this, we have to start a “conversation”: the word that sends shivers down the spines of parents with kids of all ages. But it doesn’t have to be fear-inducing.
Recently, we lost a sister. Page Spence converted to Islam two short years ago. And in that time, as she tried to find her footing in faith, she was marginalized and judged. Page was born on November 12, 1977 and passed away on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.
The circumstances of her death were preventable. But we will not talk about how she died here. We will talk about how she lived and what she went through as a reminder to all of us, to be kind to one another. A reminder that there is no room for harshness and faith in the same heart.
I never met Page, but her story moved me deeply as I read about her life and her loss. Her friend, Melissa Chance Yassini, puts is all into perspective.
Written by Melissa Chance Yassini
April 23, 1015: As everyone else was sharing their pics taken with our Sister, Page, I decided to share mine as well. This is a pic of me and Page. You don’t see her? Look again. Look close. There she is … Right there … In all of my insecurities.
She is in all of us. Am I good enough? Do I do enough? Is my hair showing? Are they laughing at me? Are they talking about me? Am I Muslim enough? Am I too fat? Am I ugly? Do they like me? Do they accept me?
In her name, in her honor. Stop shaming yourself and each other. Starting now.”
I have to say this… It needs to be said. I have had so many people ask me how Page Spence died. What happened? Who was she? What happened between her and her husband? I understand that it is our nature to be curious. I get that.
But does it matter, really? Page was our Sister. Page was someone who never felt accepted by us as a whole. Page never felt like we approved, like she was part of the gang. She struggled. She was given to us, as a gift. As a test. And we failed.
We own that. We must own that. Rather than worrying about how she died, what happened in her marriage, all her info, fighting for her body. Let her rest in peace. Pray for her. Pray for yourself. Ask Allah to make you better.
Ask Him to help you be a better friend, to be more available, to not judge, to not bully, to be easy, and open, and loving, and kind, and giving, and all the things she was. Was she perfect? No. Am I? No.
Her time here is over. She is gone. We still have to keep going. We have to do better. We are all one Ummah, one family. Don’t make that just words you say … BE ABOUT IT! Live it. Prove it.
May 6, 2015:
They say people come into your life for a reason and I often find that to be true. I cannot recall exactly how I came to know Page, I cannot pin point exactly how we met or where. One day, she was just there.
She was placed in my life at the perfect time, in the midst of personal turmoil. In one of our very first encounters, she and I had a conversation that felt like we had been friends for years. It was then that our friendship was sealed.
Page was a woman of profound beauty, inside and out. She had the face of an angel, with a smile that welcomed every person she encountered. She was always smiling, always laughing, always making others laugh.
She was the life of the party. Page never met a stranger and she never made you feel unwelcome. A lover of people (especially children) and animals, she went out of her way to make everyone around her feel loved, and important and special. Page had a beautiful and contagious spirit about her.
She was always helping, always advising, always offering support and encouragement. There was never a single time I called on her and she was not there. My first experience with her all the way to my last was one of absolute pleasure. I cannot recall a single incident of indifference between us.
In her memory, I plan to honor her by continuing on her legacy of friendship and acceptance. I plan to take life by storm as she did and not get in my own way. I plan to love fully, praise loudly, smile often. I plan to belly laugh and take selfies with my friends and enjoy dessert after EVERY meal. I plan to be a shoulder to lean on, an ear that listens and a hand to hold.
I plan to embrace every newcomer to my life and respect them and treat them as if they have always been there. I plan to help wherever I can and to inspire others to do the same. I plan to take care of animals and raise awareness to causes that benefit them. I plan to enjoy every single second of being a Mom, a gift she was never granted.
Thank you Page, for your friendship and for your kindness. Thank you for being such a beautiful example of all that I have mentioned above.
Just as she blew into my life, she left it much the same way … unexpected … unannounced. There one day and gone the next. Gone, but never forgotten.
Love you Page!
Inna lillaahi wa inna ilayhi Raaji’oon. To Allah we belong and to Him is our return.
Melissa is a Dallas, Tx native who converted to Islam 20 years ago. She is the proud mama to one gorgeous daughter. Melissa still calls Dallas home and in her community she is an active fund-raiser and Girl Scout troop leader, and an awesome sister to all she comes across.
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