September 21, 2015
When I laid down to sleep I thought of home. I imagined a country called Canada. I imagined Vancouver Island, the coasts of Newfoundland, the Rocky Mountains, the golden prairies. I imagined a small city called Leduc, and a small house where I grew up. I imagined walking up the stairs and inside to the smell of Mom’s clam chowder. My Mom, Dad and brother were sitting at the table, waiting for me. They greeted me with a smile, but knew that I couldn’t stay… they would be waiting for me when I got back. I imagined [my cat] Junior, rubbing his grey coat against my ihram and chatting to me—he’s so needy. I imagined [Rahma Mosque] in Edmonton. I imagined going into the musallah and praying, and turning around to see my bros there, [and] we all hugged. I couldn’t stay, but they’d be waiting for me when I got back. I imagined John’s place. I imagined him cured of his ALS, a miracle answered. I imagined a city called Kitchener. I imagined my fiancé, waiting for me to return and waiting for us to get married.
I imagined home, knowing that I couldn’t stay, [but] that I’ll be coming home.
But until then: Labayk Allah humma labayk…
Sleep rarely came easy in Mina. Our cushions were no wider than our bodies, some people were grappling with sickness, some people were snoring, and I was far away from home. It goes without saying that I felt homesickness. I imagined all the things I missed about home, about Canada. The people I love, the places I miss, my hopes and dreams for the future. I kept those close to me, because I felt that, at any moment, I could lose all of it.
Hajj is a long journey, both spiritually and physically. It prepares our souls for the reality of death and the life to come. It strips you down to the raw essence of your being, suspends the things you love and shows you the pieces that make up who you are. You see it for yourself. You feel constantly exposed, and become acutely aware of God, yourself and your life. The things you old dear—privacy, comfort, home—are withheld from you during Hajj, and you begin to realize that you may never get them back. Your world shrinks away to this one place and this one goal and you constantly train yourself to focus on that and that alone.
I managed to fall asleep shortly after writing this entry, only to wake up a couple hours later. I went out to the washroom, and as I stepped outside and was looking for my shoes I heard a familiar voice say, “I think they are these right here.” I looked up and saw Samir, a brother I knew from Edmonton. We told each other about our Hajj journeys so far. This little moment was exactly what I needed. It was a relief to see a familiar face, and to see a small part of home with me in the desert.
Sometimes you need a little bit of home to keep you going.