Maryam was busy as usual with school work when her phone rang. The call was from a former co-wife. This was a bit unusual so she took the call.
“As Salaamu alaikum, sis! This is a pleasant surprise. How are you?” The answer came as a shock.
“I’m calling to tell you that your ex, brother Dawud just passed away last night,” came the voice on the other end. Amina was the elder of the two wives when they were both married to brother Dawud, and Maryam always liked and respected her. Now that the both of them were in new marriages they were friendly when the met in public and still felt a bond of sorts.
Amina had been in touch with their former in-laws, and had known of the illness. Maryam, on the other hand, had completely dropped out of the “family” circuit. And that was best, because she had stayed married to Dawud many years longer than Amina, and had even gone through another two shared marriages after that. Yes, she was sad in a way, but no tears came. Rather a general overall sadness at the finality of death.
Even after the marriage had seemed to just fade into nonexistence, there was a familiarity in Maryam’s mind that could have been understood to be love. Amina didn’t stay on the phone much after delivering the news, but she promised to keep Maryam informed. Her mind raced….. should she try to go to the janaza? What would she say to the non-Muslim family who had become so used to her presence at the family reunions, and holiday gatherings? What about the Muslims who did not know or who would have found it hard to believe that they had actually divorced? Not those two who seemed so right for each other. Not those two who showed people how to live with two women in the very same house for ten years?
Maryam went to call just a few people who knew her and the former husband. Her intention was to have them make dua, as they lived too far away to come to the janaza. She did not feel like talking, though, as the reality set in. There would be no accidental run-ins that would reveal the feelings of one to the other. Since this new marriage Maryam dreaded a chance meeting that might betray her true emotional state. And now there would be no accidental anything. Was that a relief?
She still was not sure about the janaza, but was leaning away from going. That other sister may be there and she may make a scene. The last wife, the one who had shared living space for ten years was still very angry that Maryam had decided to move into her own house(?). As uncomfortable as it was living together, it was harder to maintain the semblance of friendship after Maryam moved into her own house. Actually she thought the space would allow each to grow with their respective marriage. They seemed to work well living together until Dawud lost his job and the sisters had to find work to pay bills and buy food. Now there was “time by default” as Maryam called it in her mind. She was relieved when Zainab drove away for her day shift. The house was then all hers and Dawud’s. Likewise, Zainab felt a sense of calm as Maryam got ready for her second shift at the Census. They both wondered when and how the brother would find work, but neither one wanted to upset the apple cart and be the “bad guy”, so things just went on and on until Maryam finally could not take the pressure. How long was she going to see herself and the other sister work and wait on the promise of a major project that is “sure to pay off”?
Memories of the funny times and the sad times went through Maryam’s mind for the rest of the day. She made strong dua for his forgiveness and otherwise kept quiet about it. Since she was no longer the wife she did not have the right to “condolence” calls.
As it turned out, the janaza was held in a town more than two hours drive away, which was not feasible for Maryam to get to. Later that night Amina called to fill her in on the events of the day. There had been many people there, and even “that one”. Amina found out that she had been visiting Brother Dawud up until his passing. So she got to see him last. Maryam wanted to get an attitude but she kept it to herself. She knew they had broken up after she got her own house, but she did not know they maintained contact.? There would be many things that she would not know, and Maryam had to make up her mind that it’s okay. Having been the first wife in this case had given her the advantage in many family decisions, and she had her husbands trust and confidence. That could have disadvantages, though, as when he talked about whether or not to marry someone else, Maryam had to put on her big girl pants and advise as an objective outsider.
Maryam spent the day of the janaza away from the glances and whispers of people who mean well, but can’t help but wonder at the outcome of such a long marriage. She was glad to be out of the view of people who take account of each glance and word spoken and gesture between herself and her former co-wife turned enemy through no fault of her own, and despite her attempts at apologies. She talked to Allah and begged forgiveness for her lack of patience with the financial and emotional shortcomings.
She looked at her new situation and realized the goodness that lay before her, and was content to let the past stay there.