It was a very painful feeling to carry my graduation gown and go to the university this morning to attend the 25th anniversary celebration and the graduation ceremony. I felt heaviness and throbbing pain in my chest that I had to carry along with my Oxford gown and the bag containing my shoes.
The first time I wore this gown was in Oxford for picture taking after I completed my Doctorate defense on March 1st, 1988. My husband insisted that I should have pictures taken with me wearing the gown since I will be unable to attend my graduation, as my baby was due in less than a month, in addition to our two toddlers.
I was not very keen to take pictures ahead of my defense results but nevertheless consented to my husband’s wishes, since it was my only chance to have a picture in the gown. At the time, I was eight months pregnant with my youngest child, Samar. When I joined the College of Medicine in 1991, I bought my own gown to wear it during the University’s graduation ceremonies, as faculty members were encouraged to wear the gowns of their respective alma mater.
This was the first graduation ceremony I attended following the death of my 18-year-old daughter, Samar Al Ansari who passed away on 4 September 2006. Samar had a special bond with number 4 as she was born on the 4th day of the 4th month of 1988. She loved this number so much that she picked 404 as her nickname.
Samar had graduated on 14 June 2006 from high school, one of the most wonderful days of my life. The faculty members were asked to park their vehicles in the far parking area, not in the usual area that was allocated for dignitaries on that special day. The parking ticket given to me was number 4. I came early that afternoon and went ahead and parked in the designated area, carried my stuff and walked until I reached the entrance of the building after a long walk.
As I arrived with my flushed face and my shoes completely covered with sand, I saw in the parking area next to the University’s building a big number 4 sign. I was stunned by the sign and became confused. Although I knew that we were to park in the area where I parked my car in, at that moment I thought that I made a mistake. So, I hurried into the building, left my belongings with the security guards and told them that I must have parked in the wrong place and will go and get my car to park in the parking area next to the University’s building.
No one seemed to disagree or correct me!! I went back and drove the car to the near by parking lot when the security guard in that area stopped me asking for my parking ticket. He then told me that I was in the wrong place and parking number 4 was in the far parking area where I parked earlier.
Feeling frustrated, I explained to him that I saw the number 4 sign but he insisted that I was wrong. I then said “Oh my God, I have to go back again. What a morning!” He smiled and kindly said “You are a very special and dear person; I will not allow myself to make you do that.” He then opened the gate for me to enter.
As I parked, I again saw the number 4 sign, which added to my confusion. I then went up to my office, on the second floor of the building overlooking the near by parking lot, to wear the gown and get ready. I found my secretary had also come to stay in the office until it was time for the ceremony. I told her about the number 4 sign and the parking incident.
She laughed at first, then she approached the window and shouted “Oh my God, it is number 4, I can see it!” It is when we looked closely that we realized that all the numbered signs for the parking spaces were placed on a small truck, which had number 4 in front of the others. I did not see the other numbers when I was in the parking area, but now I could see them from above at the level of my office.
My secretary made a comment that this incident was very strange indeed! Few minutes later, the truck moved with the signs to be distributed in the allocated places. At that moment, I realized that the incident is a sign from my daughter, Samar who wanted me to know that she was with me on that difficult day and to help me get a parking space close to the University’s building.
The heaviness in my chest was lighter and the ceremony was not as bad as I thought. I guess I was being looked after that day!
Randah Ribhi Hamadeh, Author
Summer Rays: Solace for Bereaved Parents
Samar is with us (Arabic)
Samar the Sun that Does Not Set (Arabic)
Samar-Sunset and Sunrise (Arabic)