When my friend called to tell me she couldn’t come over I knew by the sounds of tears chocked up in the back of her throat that something was majorly wrong. It took a little probing for her to confess what was really going on. “My Dad just past away, so I can’t come and teach your tutoring class”. A few days later this same friend came over, her once free flying curly dark hair was tucked up under a sedate colored headscarf. She looked like she has lost some weight in light of her family stress. As she sat down next to me and I took her hand in mine, I was torn with how to best offer my condolences and comfort here. My culture screamed in me to let her cry, to hold her close and help her remember all the great memories of her father. My understanding of Uyghur culture dictated that I simple say “Don’t cry, this too will pass” . In the end I went for a bit of a middle ground and inquired about how her family was handling all this. “How’s your mom doing?” , I asked. “Oh she doesn’t know yet, we haven’t told her”
“What?” I couldn’t believe have I had just heard, it must have been a language mix-up or some sort or misunderstanding on my part. How could the wife of the deceased possibly still not know that he had died. Hadn’t she noticed all her children wearing head scarves and morning, or the neighbors dropping by for the 1st, 3rd and 7th day funerals, at the very least didn’t she notice that he hadn’t come to bed the last week or so. My friend saw the puzzled look on my face “she was sick and staying at by brothers for the last week, we thought it was wise to let her recover before burdening her with this news.” It was almost two months after her spouse had been burred that this poor women was finally deemed able to handle the news.
For a long time I thought this family must be an isolated incidence, but I soon heard of others that kept close deaths in the family a secret for loved ones ‘for their own good’. My roommate says her friend’s parents had withheld informing her friend of an older sister’s death so that she could finish her college exams and get a good score. I heard of another patient in the hospital who had cancer, but the family chose not to tell him what it was so that ‘he wouldn’t worry’. In each of these cases, can’t help but feel sorry for the poor soul left in the dark, Sorry for the person who is never given the opportunity to morn alongside the rest of the family. I know if it was me, I would not only be hurt by the passing of a loved one, but even more hurt by the betrayal of my family