When my Aunt Laila died, we all went to her home to begin the ceremonial funeral, as is customary in Afghanistan. We brought tea and lunch and prepared the Quran Sharif for those who wanted to recite for her. 

On the first day, I just wept and recited the Holy Quran and prayed for her spirit. By the end of the day, my voice was worn out and I could no longer recite.

Aunt Laila was my father’s sister. She was a woman who spent her time and her life making other people happy. She loved my father and all of our family. She was very kind and when she came to our house she would tell me stories. I could see these stories as vividly as if they were pictures. 

She had taught me the Quran when I was 12, instructing me that when she died I should recite from it for her spirit.  

On the second day we held the traditional Fateha, the ceremony in which all the relatives, friends, neighbors, and workplace friends come to pray. Everyone sits for 10 to 15 minutes and recites an Aya of the Holy Quran and then leaves. The Fateha usually takes place in a public mosque near the person’s house or at a relative’s house.

Since my father was Laila’s older brother, the Fateha was held at our house, which has two big salons where as many as 50 or 60 people can sit. I sat beside my mother and cried, unable to stop, and my aunt’s daughter and daughter-in-laws and her sister also cried.  

My uncle’s wife, Gulnaz, her sister Rabia, and her sister-in-law Shringul, walked around the room with the purpose of kissing each of the relatives. 

My aunts came to kiss me. But Rabia, seeing the room full of women, didn’t kiss everyone, but instead calmly sat down in one of the rows. At the same moment, my aunt’s sister-in-law Shringul came and kissed me and then she started to kiss Rabia, who had come with her to the Fateha. Rabia stood and kissed her one time, quietly saying “Oh Shringul-jaan, we came together. Why you are kissing me?”  

When I heard this, I began to laugh. Rabia saw this and she also started laughing. I tried my best to look sad, but could not. My face turned red. My mother took a look at me, and told me to leave the room. Rabia had the same problem, but she covered her face with a handkerchief. 

When I was out of the room, I laughed so hard that my sister came to ask what was going on. I couldn’t explain, but she told me it was okay, and pointed me to an empty room where I continued.  

That laugh renewed my spirit and gave me new energy. I stopped crying. When all of the guests had left, my mother found me. When she heard the story she also felt much better, and said how good of Rabia to make us happy and lift our spirits. 

By Fariba