This was the last picture I took with my uncle Matthew. It was the last time seeing him like this smiling.
I heard from my family that he got sick. I called Chicago to ask about his health after he was diagnosed with rare ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). It was Wednesday night on Nov 12, 2014 around 9:40PM Baghdad local time, 12:40PM Chicago time. My uncle George told me that the disease is in its final stage, and he is still alive but on a respirator until his last breath.
George finished our conversation with a final word: “Maktoob.”
He said it in Aramaic “Iktoo-ta-la”. I remembered the Arabic translation of it, “Maktoob.”
Maktoob is Arabic word for: “It is written.” It is the “unknown” certainty.
A well-known proverb in Iraq is:
“What is written on your forehead, your eyes will see!”
It means that people are prisoners of their fate. What has been written for Matthew’s final episode from his life script – his death sequence event, will be unfolding in the upcoming days.
Maktoob reminded me about my own script. I always wonder about my life when I see people died in a sinkhole or a bridge collapse. Yet, I survived three deadly wars. I’ve seen the Angel of Death and felt his presence so close in Iraq. One time I was 50 feet away from a mortar attack, a concrete wall in the shape of an upside down letter T saved me. Or another time, someone ambushed us with a few rounds of bullets. Could these be a few climaxes that were “written” to bring some excitement in the movie of my life?
In the early part of my life, I used to attend a Presbyterian church. I heard many Church sermons about God’s omniscience about human life. Many pastors talked about God’s personalized plan for each individual. They said difficulties, sickness, and death are events written for each person in the “Heavenly Book”.
But what puzzled me back then, and still does, is: if everything is written, then what is the point of a prayer that asks to change the course of events? And, could this future be modified? Is everything written for the good of me?
I guess there is an invisible hand in heaven that wrote my fate. It wrote my life script and destiny. Wrote my future. Wrote my ending. And the Angel of Death is waiting for the execution order from God.
I understand many people, including myself, have a hard time accepting “Maktoob”. It is easier to believe that fate is a result of the Universal Randomness.
In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankl writes there is meaning in suffering. I am not sure if there is a meaning in slow death by disease – is it God’s version of the Chinese water torture?
Filling our lungs with air naturally without the aid of a respirator is a blessing many of us take for granted.
One day the Angel, or Randomness, will visit me and take my life, the biggest fear is not knowing how. Can I put in a request for a sudden death?
I want to die quickly.
Dear Ninos, this was a good topic to write about, you are absolutely right, if it is written “Maktoob” why we bothered to study, work, and putting goal for our life when is going to be written. I think who ever implant this thought or idea he was trying to make the human to not be a challenger.
I enjoyed reading your blog, and you mentioned interesting questions about life and death. I hope one day you will find the answers to fulfill your curiosity.
Thank you sjindo
Ninos; This subject is close to my heart: My younger sister has lived with ALS for 13 years and I don’t think she has much longer. This is an insidious disease that leads to a long slow death. My heart goes out to your uncle and family!
Thank you Ron!…I know!
Thanks for sharing such interest topic. Do you know that you’re not the only one who has those thoughts, I thought about it a lot long time ago, and when I asked a pastors he said ” There is no “Maktoob” this idea is taken from other religions, but God knows what will happen in our lives in advance”. I believe that, God gave us brain to think,chose, make decisions and the holy book to help us to know how to manage and direct our life in better way. Finally, we face the evaluation for what we did.
Please never wish to die. Focus how to build your life in best way..I’m not sure if you pray.. but you do so….ask him to give you the best ….be sure he will.