(Counts as the second in a series about Iranians)
Last weekend I was fortunate to have a delightful dinner party with exceptional guests. It was what a perfect night is about: scrumptious food, dancing, dear and interesting company, unique and tender stories.
A truly magical night.
I shared with them one of the most beautiful life stories I have lived to date. A very vulnerable one at that. A gem of a miracle that the Universe gifted me with.
One of the guests, F, inspired me to share this story with others. When yesterday I read Tom Kuegler’s “How To Be More Vulnerable In Your WritingI’ve written some extremely vulnerable pieces in my life.”, I had no doubt I had to.
Two such signs in a row could only mean I had to share. So here it goes.
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On Thursday, August 18th, 2016, at around 12:30 pm, I was at an oncologist’s office reception area, about to pay for a visit’s deductible. Six months before turning 50, I had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Just four days before, I had undergone a biopsy that turned out positive for estrogen positive invasive ductal carcinoma. A very aggressive form of breast cancer.
As I was pulling out my wallet, I placed my smart phone on the secretary’s desk, face up. I saw it light up with a message that read: “M”* messaged you.
M was my first love. My college sweetheart.
I met him on the second day I arrived to campus. It was love at first sight. We became the inseparable Puerto Rican and Iranian couple, hopping around campus in the wonderful college town called Manhattan.
Separation became inevitable. Being an Iranian Muslim and me a Puerto Rican Catholic, his family was not particularly fond of our explosive like-water-for-chocolate type of love.
Just like in a novel, we last said goodbye in a train station. Our hands were posed against each other on both sides of the glass window, separatated as the train departed. We stared at each other across the train’s window, crumpled faces and tears rolling down both our cheeks, I also had to bite my upper lip to contain the urge to scream at the machinist to halt the train.
We were both clear that despite the immense love we shared, his family would never make it possible for us to live ‘happily ever after’.
Shaken from the session with the oncologist, I became more nervous when I saw that the man I had not heard from in 30 years had texted me. I could not get myself to read the message.
It had been eight years since I had last tried to find M. The first time had been on June 23, 2007, when I came across his Facebook page.
In my last message to him, in 2008, I pleaded that he please reply to me. I reasoned that I had “…always remained friends …” with all my former lovers, for I believed that“…after sharing such special moments, it was stupid to be enemies with that person to whom at some point you gave it all….I will forever hold you in my mind and soul as the person who introduced me to so many wonderful things in life. Be well. Namaste.”
Throughout the day, the temptation to open M’s message continued to creep up the back of my mind. Yet, I resisted the urge to read it.
I was too scared it would be another blow to my already overwhelmed soul.
The next morning, before getting out of bed, I mustered the courage to read M’s message. It read as follows:
“Dear Ana, your message has been sitting in my message request folder for all these years. Just found it today. I don’t know what to say. I don’t talk with any of my ‘lovers’, and but then I only had one. I am glad that you seem happy and your son seems wonderful. I hope you are in a happier place, Namaste.”
He then included the link to Mark Zuckerberg’s post that had just led him to my message:
And he then wrote:
“Your message was filtered by Facebook. I am in a plane and I’m probably the last one not in flight mode”
M had seen the message when the time was right: when he had a need to communicate with me and I had a need to hear from him. Pure kairos.
“I sent it years ago” — I replied the next morning.
He immediately answered.
“Yes, you did. It has basically been sitting in a Facebook spam folder. How are you?”
I did not tell him right away about my ailments.
For months, M had been unsuccessfully looking for me over the internet. He explained:
“Ana, I found a box of your things. A few months back. I looked for you, even the day before I found you. I had really given up. There were two reasons.
First, if you wanted anything back: gifts, pictures, etc. Unopened letters, unseen letters and gifts that he did not throw away because I cared. I always cared.
Second: to say what I never said while we were not talking and never will in the future, that what we had was real…I did love you immensely…I was in love with you immensely…that is what has changed. But actually, it is more accurate to say that I will always love you.”
M went on to attempt to say farewell with a “you were thoroughly loved”. Adding: “Take care of yourself; I am glad you are well & around (I was worried that you were not, as I could not find you on Facebook or LinkedIn).”
It was then that I told him that his message had arrived on the day I had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
He was crushed.
He insisted that for months he had an incessant urge that he felt that had to find me. In his words: “…the Universe was YELLING that I should let you know it was real…That I would have regretted it if I didn’t.”
Our text conversation went on for over an hour.
He was surprised that I acknowledged right away that in hindsight, it was clear that we were never really ‘friends’.
After our exchange, I believe he reached the conclusion that he could part with the mementos of our relationship he had not discarded. The ones that had been left after a purge he had done two months before. He read and tossed letters that had gone unseen before, threw away trinkets. Saved some.
Now that he had told me what he needed to say, he said he would write again in two weeks to get my address and send me the items that I had told him I would cherish getting.
The weeks went by and he did not ask for my address.
My surgery was on October 6th. Everything went beyond my expectations. I am blessed that to this day is but a tiny trace in my mind and body.
Three days after my surgery, M wrote to say he did not need my address. Instead, he scanned and sent some of the pictures he had left in his box and then wrote me this message:
“Time flies, and so do we with it.“
“I just couldn’t get rid of the more meaningful stuff, before getting some closure. (Message Not Finished…) Got to run.”
That was the last time he contacted me.
In my half century of a life, I am convinced that I have been blessed to be constantly guarded by an army of angels. On those times that I have faced an abyss of turmoil, God lets me get as far as its border, only to pull me back from the back of my shirt just as I am about to fall, reminding me that he would never let me fall.
Reminding me that sometimes he has to let me get close to the abyss just so I don’t forget that he never abandons me.
Reminding me that he is there with me at every step of my journey, holding me however painful that part of the journey may be.
The day after our exchange, M changed his profile picture to the one below.
To this day, it remains the same.
After my first messenger conversation with M, I underwent surgery, radiotherapy and currently consider myself an ‘unscathed’ survivor.
I am a stronger woman, grateful for my health and for the genuine love that I have been blessed to receive throughout my life from people like M.
I am eternally grateful to M for listening to the “Universe” and insisting on finding me to let me know how I am “eternally loved”.
I am also grateful to my guest F, who insisted that I share this vulnerable story with others.
Never stop listening to that voice inside that sometimes speaks, and sometimes screams at you. Had M ignored that voice, I would not be telling you this vulnerable love story and its closure 30 years later.
A closure that had to transpire at the perfect time it did.