“God Gives Courage, Have Faith in Him.” A Conversation with Mrs Lt Col Tahir Iqbal Shaheed

Grief is never ending and we are often made to believe that acceptance is one of the most important steps when dealing with trauma and grief. I beg to differ with this notion. We are never fully able to accept the new reality, we are only able to push grief to the back of our heads and focus on the things that are headed towards us in life. I was recently blessed with the honor of interviewing Mrs. Iffat Tahir, wife of Lt Col Tahir Shaheed, CO 41 Baloch Regiment. He embraced shahadat in June 2009, when the unit convoy travelling from Wacha Bibi to Madakhel in North Waziristan was ambushed by terrorists. Following the traditions of Pakistan Army, he led from the front and embraced martyrdom while fighting.
Mrs. Tahir sat down and recounted this episode of 11 years ago when life changed forever for her sons and herself. It is surreal yet a haunting experience to hear someone who has gained strength of bearing the loss of a loved one with such poise and class, taking pride in the cause her husband gave his life to, at the same time being realistic about the challenges of life.
She had taken the responsibility of man of the house since the very beginning due to her husband’s demanding postings and appointments. She had taken control of the family, taking care of shifting, paying bills and looking after the kids’ education on her own. She thinks of this as God’s plan beforehand for her to prepare her for a lifelong experience of living without her better half. When Lt Col Tahir Shaheed got the news of being posted to Turkey for a course, the family was not celebrating, she still does not know why. There was a fear in her heart, the calm before a storm. She thinks maybe Allah did not want them to get excited for something that was never going to happen and as life planned it, within those 3 months before having to travel to Turkey, Lt Col Tahir embraced martyrdom. She recounts how her family never made plans. She shares that her family never had the need to discuss the future. Not once did she or her husband ever discuss what profession should the kids pursue.
Mrs. Tahir seems to have a very introvert nature but her words captivate you and make you want to have the same strong faith as she has. The resolve and determination in her voice gives the person listening to her courage and bravery and a new zeal for life. She lives a quiet life with her kids, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, in a very secure and friendly neighborhood. Her social circle consists of her late husband’s unit officers’ wives who often stay in touch with her and keep checking on her every now and then, and she gets invited to unit get-togethers, which she never misses despite not being much of an outgoing person.
Life was never the same for her after her husband but what helped her, as she recounts, was God and the officers of her husband’s unit, 41 Baloch. She praised the unit calling them incomparable because they helped her get back on her feet and have stayed by her side even after 11 years. Whenever she has made a call to them for help, the unit officers and their wives have always assisted her without any delay or hesitance. 
Life gets difficult, especially for the kids. “Kids can never have a replacement of their father,” she said, “no matter how much I try to be both the parents.” The wound stays and only the people close to you in spirit, in her case, her unit as she recounts, were able to stick by her side 24/7. According to Mrs. Tahir, her eldest son is very sensitive in nature and feels things deeply. Her kids would often say, “If Baba was here, this would have been different,” and she shares how difficult these statements and questions are for her to face and respond to. 
Her nature has always compelled her to be grounded and be a stay-at-home mom. Being a homemaker was and continues to be her passion. Her inclination towards securing the future of her kids by making sure they are never impacted by the void left by their father has turned her into a ‘super mom’ in literal sense. 
She refused all sorts of job opportunities because she preferred making the base of her kids stronger from home while they learn academically from institutions. She shared her reservations about today’s education system and complained that it does not focus on what the child is learning rather just on achieving high grades. Her thought process is inclined towards having a system where she can teach her sons how to be better husbands and fathers and a good Muslim before anything else. 
She believes that her religious commitment held her head high and her heart in place despite multiple hardships that life threw at her. About the many young girls who experience the same grief as she did, she told us that her heart cries for them. She says it is not easy to lose a husband and she prays that they are able to rebuild their lives, focus on themselves and not let the trauma define them. 
She constantly emphasized on the need of providing a positive and happy environment for the kids. For her, the kids were and continue to be her life’s priority. Her life revolves around them and she dedicates every minute of her day to impart wisdom so her kids can become assets for themselves in their lives ahead. 
It is a different feeling to hear such strong emotions pouring out of someone without a trace of a tear in her eye. The hope Mrs. Tahir has despite losing a life partner and the love for Pakistan Army is soul touching. Those 45 minutes of interaction with her left me speechless due to the amount of strength she has and how for granted we take every single minute of our life worrying about the future. I left with a lot of feelings in my heart, most of all a new love for all the blessings around me. No matter what life gives you or throws at you, how you make use of that situation for the betterment of your life ahead makes all the difference. Grief stays, your surroundings and your faith helps you live through it. HH

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