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The day my aunt died

Farideh Bayanfar memorial


I saw Khaleh Farideh’s missed call on my phone. I had to turn off my phone while in the museum. It was a busy day too. When I got in the uber on my way to the JFK airport, I called her back.

-Hi Khaleh, how are you? It’s Haleh

-Ghorbone sedat beram khaleh. where are you (Kojaie)?

The always (Vamoundeh)annoying question!

-I’m in New York Khaleh jan. Came here for a few days after visiting Michael for passover. Jat Khali.

-Is Michael ok? All your loved ones are well?

-Yes khaleh joon. Everyone is ok. How are you? Why is your voice like that? Something wrong?

-Will be ok

-What’s wrong Khaleh?

Why does it take so long for them to answer?

She said a few of the children in the family are sick. The son of one and the daughter of the other, stroke, cancer, divorce, separation.

She was worried about them. Very much. Like always that she had to carry everyones pain on her shoulders.

But no one took her pain with them.

The lonely nights, days she pinned peoples clothes.

She would say:

-If I don’t do that I’ll be bored. What else am I going to do?

She didn't wan’t to be an imposition.

Or to be bed ridden.

She wanted to stand on her own two feet, always.

To be independent.

But that Monday she was very worried.

-I said khaleh joon don’t worry so much. Be mindful of your own heart. It’s weak. It has suffered so much. It can’t endure too much. No space for pain.

-khaleh Torokhoda, have you taken your pills today?

-I’m going to take them now. When will you be back? When your back come and see me.

-Sure khaleh jan. I will call you tomorrow and come and see you.

-Call earlier so I can cook your favorite, carrot rice you love. Safe travels Khaleh. Bye.

-Bye khaleh


She was always worried about my travels too. Like the first time I was traveling to Iran.

She called:

-Haleh, I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I wanted to tell you. Please don’t take Chaloos or Harraz road to the North. It’s dangerous. I’m worried Khaleh.

-So what road am I suppose to take? Can’t fly with the Iranian plains, they are old and they keep falling. And I don’t have wings either.

I called her when I was on chaloos.

She asked again:

- (Kojaie)Where are you?

-Chaloos khaleh. Can you believe it? My friends found me a safe driver, bought a bottle of Vodka and I’m on my way to the North to find our Vila.

-Have a great time khaleh jun. Take care of yourself. Drink Vodka for me too and enjoy. Be my eyes. Bring your pictures and videos you take with you for me to see. Okay cost of this phone call is going to be very expensive. I’ll let you go. God be with you.

I thought to my self… What a big responsibility. To live for someone else. To be somebody else’s eyes and ears. Somebody else's witness.

How would I be able to show her everything?

Taste of the Olvieh sandwich in the chaloos’s park Jangali after 35 years?

The sound of the running (jub) creek next to Pahlavi Street chasing it everyday on my way home from school.

How do I convey the joy of it?

How about the smell of the homeland? smell of its soil?

The fragrance of the Pine trees of Pirayesh Blvd.

Sounds of laughter of the young friendships in the middle of the yard of Hadaf school #5?


By the time I got home from New York and fell asleep, it was 5 in the morning. The phone calls spared me till 11. But when I woke up I was still dizzy. Had something to eat and went back to bed.

I didn’t call her.

I was thinking about her. Talking to her in my head.

-She must be busy now. Houmayoun is going to go over her house tonight for the last night of Passover. I will call her tomorrow and tell her I was jet lagged and tired. She will understand.

I looked at the time and it was 10:20 at night. I’m still thinking about her. Should I call her now?

No. I don’t want to bother her. Her Kids are over.


10 minutes later, I get a text from Khaleh Farzi:

-I think you would like to know. Khaleh Farid is not feeling well.

-Vay vavailla. What do you mean she is not feeling well? I spoke to her yesterday.

She didn’t reply.

She tried calling me but the call kept on getting discounted. The second and the third time too.

My heart couldn’t take it anymore.

You know people from Kashan (Kashi) They don’t give you bad news right away. First they say the person is sick, then they say he is very sick. Then they say he is in the hospital. But the fact is that the person has been dead for a week.

Baba tell us faster. What kind of tradition is this?

Nesfe joon shodam till I was able to talk to khaleh Farzi.

-Farzi, I’m dying. Where is Khaleh Farid?

-Khaleh Farid is no more. She died.

I couldn’t get the words out. What do you mean she died? I was suppose to go see her today.

That’s not possible? You mean it gets too late that fast?

I wish I had called her. I wish I had heard her voice one last time. I still have her voice on my voicemail.

I listen to it, again and again.

I get lost, in her voice, in the moment, in her breath and I listen again and again and I remember

Forough’s poem;

“ Only the Sound Remains”


last word


What great sadness I feel. Loosing my eldest aunt.

Born on the same day as her sister, my mother.

And how happy I am for her.

What a way to die.

She was not bed ridden.

not dependent.

She didn’t live a comfortable life, but what a comfortable death.

Sarbar nashod

Khar nashod

Band nashod

and she was gone.

Dagh nadid

saw her grandchildren, saw her grandchildren’s weddings and she even saw her great-grand children too.

Last day of a week of celebrating freedom. Her dinner ready on the table, waiting to see her children, while washing herself,

she even cooks her kookoo for the blessing of her own shiva with her own hands,

and she leaves everyone in awe.

She says her last goodbye as the sun sets and

the end.

What a beautiful way to die.


I cried, prayed and weeped more.

I called the florist to order flowers for khaleh’s funeral. I told him to pick out the best and the most beautiful red roses he could find and send them to her.

I was thinking…

When was the last time I brought her flowers? Her Birthday? Mother’s day? For the new year?

I don’t remember!

Why am I sending flowers now? To tell her I loved her? Wouldn’t it have been better if I had sent her flowers while she was still alive so she could put them on her work table next to the window and feel the beauty and enjoy her day better?

Note to self; when you die, while flying over your gravesite, if you see anyone had sent flowers that had not sent flowers while you were still alive, go in their sleep at night and hunt them.

We should appreciate each other while we are still alive and send flowers then, not wait till they die and throw the flowers in their grave.


My Mother was grieving and I had to be a cane for her. At the end, she is my mother. I have to hold her hand so she doesn’t fall.

I was okay.

My back was hurting, as if I was breaking in half.

Till I heard the devastating sound of the first shovel of soil thrown on top of her brown wooden casket.

I broke.

This is goodbye.


The end of the line.

Khaleh’s life had ended right here.

Her story fis over.

Who will write it for her?

It was hard,

it was colorful.

Love was present,

hate too.

Freedom and independence.

Not feeling worthy of good things in life

was also present.

Is it over now?

Is the past not going to repeat itself?

At the grave site I was thinking…

With the way she left us, she taught us such an important lesson.

I thought now everyone will go over Homayoun’s house, throw their arms around each other, squeeze tightly, cry, apologize for saying hurtful words to each other, kiss and celebrate life and being alive together.

I thought after hearing such horrible sound, they will be reminded that all that is left of us is just a handfull of memories.

So why do we expect so much of each other?

If not beneficial, we don't even say hello to each other.

I wish instead of cars, watches and Gucci bags, we would fill ourselves with music, books and poetry. Wish we would send each other flowers. Buy each other gifts. Be the first to say hello. Smile. And if we hurt someone with our words, apologize immediately and not let the pain sit in their heart. Get them sick.

Respect everyone. Not because they know someone important or how much cash they have in their bank accounts.

But at night I saw that it changed no-one.

And that’s when I realized that the story will continue.


I slept again. The sound of the stones hitting her casket is still hunting me.

Did Khaleh hear it?

No of course not,

her soul has left her body. Body is of soil and belongs to it and how easily it devoured her.

Sohrab Sepehri, in the poem written for his mother called “The water’s foot steps” writes:

(Sometimes the wound beneath my foot

Has taught the ups and downs of Earth

Sometimes in my sickbed the dimension of the rose has multiplied

And the diameter of orange has increased, the radius of lantern too

And let’s not fear death

Death is not the end of the pigeon

Death is not the cricket’s inversion

Death flows in the mind of acacia

Death dwells in the pleasant climate of mind

Death speaks of morning within the nature of village’s night

Death comes into the mouth with a strand of grapes

Death sings in red larynx of throat

Death is responsible for the beauty of butterfly’s wing

Death sometimes picks basils

Death sometimes drinks vodka

Death sometimes sits in the shade,

watching us

and we all know

The lungs of pleasure is full of oxygen of death)

Khaleh was filled with love

but with forgiveness not.

When she was hurt, she was hurt.

She didn't expect it.

But if you were friends with her and faithful

She loved you and would check on you.

Khaleh was my #1 fan. Whenever I needed help she was there for me no questions asked.

Years ago she sew wedding dresses for my dolls. I was supposed to show them in my exhibition.

-Haleh, when are you going to show your work? I want to come and see them. Applaud you, scream for you.

I didn't think it would get so late so quickly.

Khaleh forgive me.

Khaleh didn't want flowers. Neither did she want gifts.

I swear all the gifts I bought her were still in the same box I gave them to her left in her closet.

Khaleh wanted love and respect. One does not exist without the other.

She wanted you to go to her place and tell her stories. Of places she hasn't been to or seen. To have some tea, enjoy her cooking and spend time with her.

Just like everyone else.

The only difference was that Khaleh was very sensitive. Her heart was made of glass.

She wanted to know everyone is well, happy and not lonely.

She would tell me:

-Haleh, find someone soon. You will be lonely. Look at me?

Being alone is hard.

Forough wrote beautifully:

(If we remember someone

it's their art, not ours

it’s beautiful to love someone

not out of need

not because we have to

and not because we feel lonely

Only because they are worth it.)

Today is the 7th day that her soul has separated from her body.

It’s been 7 days that if you call her house she will not answer.

But it’s been 7 days that I feel her closer than any other time.

I see her.

She turns into a moth and sits on my wall.

She sits on Homayoun’s curtains.

She listens. If you call her, she hears you.

Telling me new stories.

From the other side.

She says;

Before it’s too late show your work , show your paintings. Write your book. Before its gets too late Haleh.

She says to tell Farzi:

Farzi joon, Abgi loved you very much and she is very thankful for all the love and respect you showed her and cared for her so much. She always was, even though she wouldn’t tell you all the time. It was hard for her. Maybe because she was the eldest and she was supposed to take care of you.

I hope all her loved ones would remember her in peace and joy.

I remember where ever we were, outings, weddings or gatherings, even knowing she was annoying everyone, she would start singing this song at the end of it and that’s how I like to end my talk.

As Khaleh sang:

Shahanshahe ma zende bada… (Iranian national anthem before the revolution).

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