A Visit to the Ismaili Cemetery at the Victory Memorial Park: I Bid Farewell to My Mum, “Mrs. Merchant,” and Pay My Deep Respects to My Beloved Dad and Other Deceased Members of the Jamat

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Mrs Merchant Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Simerg
Alwaeza Malek J. Merchant pictured in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018 during the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

As I reached the burial sites of my parents on Thursday, April 29, 2021, I was deeply gratified when a Bangladeshi woman walked over to me and offered me two stems of roses that were part of a large bouquet of flowers that she had brought to lay on the grave of her beloved 31 year old son who passed away 3 years ago following a bone marrow transplant. She was in a state of grief as the loss of a child to any parent is the greatest sorrow that can occur. She prayed fervently by her son’s graveyard, and before departing came to me once again to offer her sincere and heartful condolences for the recent loss of my mum, and my dad three years ago. She told me she would think of them during her future visits.

Mrs. Merchant grave Victory Memorial Park
Grave of Alwaeza Malek Merchant (June 9, 1931 — Jan 21, 2021) bearing a temporary plaque with her name. She was buried at Victory Memorial Park, a few metres from my dad’s grave. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Grave of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (December 13, 1928 — May 27, 2018) at Victory Memorial Park, with a permanent marker bearing his name and the Qur’anic verse “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (Surely we belong to God, and to Him we return, 2:156). Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

My visit to the burial grounds was on my 17th day in Vancouver. I had missed my mum’s funeral that took place almost 3 months ago. I had come to close up on her matters and to pay my respects to both her as well my father who had died 3 years ago on May 27, 2018 shortly after he and my mum were blessed with the Diamond Jubilee Deedar (glimpse) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Victory Memorial Park Aga Khan Ismaili Cemetery, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada Simerg
A layout of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery grounds, with the Ismaili section indicated by the word “Aga Khan” at top left section. Image: Brochure, Victory Memorial Park.

The Victory Memorial Park burial site has been in use by the Ismaili Jamat (community) since 2017. Located in Surrey, it is at a fair distance from the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana, where all the funeral rites and ceremonies take place. However, the previous cemetery, Forest Lawn that is just minutes away from the Burnaby Jamatkhana, continues to administer matters such as the transfer and storage of bodies until the funeral actually takes place as well as the issuance of death certificates.

Modern technology brought me to Victory Memorial Park without any hitch whatsoever. Once at the cemetery, which has a picturesque view of the mountains, the site of Ismaili burials was easily located. The graves are arranged chronologically by year.

The Ismaili cemetery section at Victory Memorial Park.
The Ismaili cemetery section at Victory Memorial Park in foreground, with the main funeral home building seen in the upper centre of the photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I spent a considerable amount of time, offering the Fateha and Salwats, for my parents as well as other deceased members of the Jamat, including family friends who were well known to us. I also connected via Facetime with my brother Alnoor in the UK, and my relatives in Canada and Spain who, like me, were unable to attend the funeral because of Covid-19. We all participated in the recitation of the Fateha, and I was deeply inspired that they were able to join me while I was at the cemetery. It was a lovely day, and the beautiful sunshine warmed my heart.

Victory Memorial Park Cemetery, Simerg
A view of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery from the main funeral home building. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I then proceeded to the cemetery’s main building where the director of the funeral home kindly gave me a quick tour of the building and provided me with a map of the cemetery site.

A view of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery from a section of the burial grounds. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I left the picturesque cemetery knowing that the deceased souls are in a world filled with light, peace and happiness. I recollected an excerpt of the Talika Mubarak of Mawlana Hazar Imam that was sent to the Jamats worldwide on the occasion of his 84th birthday. It read:

Mr and Mrs Merchant in fromt of Aga Khan Hazar Imam portrait.
Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant in front of a large portrait photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

11th December 2020

My beloved spiritual children,

On the occasion of my birthday, the 13th of December 2020, I send my warmest and most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings to all my beloved spiritual children throughout the world.

I give my best loving blessings for the souls of all my ruhani spiritual children, and I pray for the eternal peace and rest of their souls….

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

During my return drive to my hotel, as my mum’s unit where I had stayed for a fortnight was now empty, I suddenly thought of Tessie, an elderly lady from the Philippines whom my mum deeply adored. Tessie would come by to help my mum on a regular basis, except from November to February when she would go away to the Philippines to spend time with her family. She was still abroad when my mum passed away on January 21, 2021. When Tessie opened the door to me, she was obviously surprised to see me and her first question was, “How is Mrs. Merchant? I miss her a lot.” She broke down when I told her that my mum had passed away, She was in utter shock. She tearfully offered me her condolences and prayers. I then left her home peacefully, knowing that the person my mum would have liked to be informed about her passing had been told about it by a family member.

As I reflected on my parents deaths, I remembered all the members of the Ismaili mayat (funeral) committee for the wonderful work they do to alleviate our pain and sadness, and keep us at peace during a grieving time. They are amazing, as are the Mukhis and Kamadias of the Jamat with their inspiring prayers that provide the Jamat with immense comfort and strength. And, not to be forgotten, are the hundreds of friends, relatives and colleagues around the world who write and telephone to express their feelings, condolences and prayers for the deceased.

Jehangir and Malek Merchant books, waezes, sermons, Simerg
My parents collections of waezes (sermons), religious texts and other material, all carefully packed and ready for shipment. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Mrs. Merchant alwaeza malek jehangir merchant waving goodbye
My mum waves goodbye to my younger brother Alnoor’s fiancé, Shellina, as she departs for the airport after a recent stay with my mum. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

As I prepare to return to Ontario after spending 3 weeks in Vancouver, I do so with immense satisfaction that I was also able to stay with them for long periods of time before both of them passed away.

Finally as we prepare to observe Laylat al-Qadr (Read Institution Program Details), the holiest of all the nights, on the 23rd night of Ramadhan (Tuesday May 4, 2021), my family and I once again draw comfort from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings and his prayers for the eternal peace and rest of all his ruhani spiritual children.

Date posted: May 2, 2021.
Last updated: May 4, 2021 (added link to Laylat al-Qadr program)

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17 thoughts on “A Visit to the Ismaili Cemetery at the Victory Memorial Park: I Bid Farewell to My Mum, “Mrs. Merchant,” and Pay My Deep Respects to My Beloved Dad and Other Deceased Members of the Jamat

  1. Dear Malik, so sorry to hear about your Mom. I spent time time with her & and we often spoke over the road. I really enjoyed both your parents.
    Our Deepest Sympathy for you and your family.
    May God bless and keep you.
    Sherry , Mike, Jordan & Jarrod Copps unit 41

  2. May Mowla rest their souls in eternal peace, Ameen. They had both rendered exceptional service to the house of Hazar Imam and the jamat. Will always be remembered with fondness.

  3. I was touched by your personal sentiments on your mother’s passing. I do remember her from the photos you posted.

    Thank you for the wonderful service you are providing through your platform. I do visit your site periodically and commend you for your work. God bless and best wishes.

  4. Dear Malik,
    What a wonderful tribute to both your parents. I was indeed fortunate to have been able to visit both of them as member of the CFTE and was privileged to have been assigned to visit such wonderful kind and knowledgeable people. I had spent considerable time with both your parents and the sukoon that we (my wife and I) and peace that we experienced is indescribable We pray that both your parents rest in eternal peace, Ameen.

  5. Ya Ali Madad Malik,

    First of all, thank you for sharing your personal story of bidding final farewell to your mum. It must be very strange to visit an empty home, where, at one time, there was all that warmth and love, and now, even though no one was there to greet you, you still felt your parents’ invisible presence all over again! I can understand those emotions as I also experience the same every time I visit Toronto where my parents lived.

    Secondly, it is not easy to sort through our parents’ worldly possessions after they are gone. And yet, it’s a good therapy and a reminder that we will all leave everything behind when our number is called! The truth is that your parents have already taken their own “Bhati” for their onward journey, just like it’s said in our Ginan “Ho jire Vanjara, Jire Vanjara”. During their short lifespans, they have already accumulated enough spiritual wealth to accompany their souls. Shukhar!

    In a way it was good that your trip to BC has given you some closure. We pray that the souls of our parents and other Jamati members may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.
    Take care,
    Shah Abdulla, Ottawa.

  6. Ya Ali Madad Thanks Malik for sharing in words and pictures a well written details of the visit to Malek Sultan Aunty and Jehangir Uncle’s resting place .Mowla’s blessings always keep their souls in etarnal peace and closeness.🤲🌹. You have another precious memories to add to the treasure memory box ..

  7. May Mowla rest their beautiful and beloved souls in eternal peace Ameen. With all the lifetime of seva they have done in this world I am sure they are continuing it in their next journey together. Take care and may Mowla’s and your Parent’s blessings continue to be showered upon you and give you the strength and perseverance to move ahead with good work. Ameen.

  8. My deepest condolences on the passing of your mother. There is no stronger bond than that between a mother and child…Mowla rest her soul, and all departed souls, in eternal peace. 🙏🏼❤️

    Thank you for sharing the details of this memorable visit. Very vivid and touching…Could not have been easy. Life is a journey…

    Mowla bless your parents thousandfold for their seva. 🙏🙏🙏

  9. A selection of comments submitted in the social media:

    Pyarali Assani: Mowla rest all ruhani in eternal peace Ameen🙏🙏🙏
    Gulshan Mahmood: May their souls continue to rest in eternal peace. Aameen 🙏. Alwaeza was a great teacher too. She was my teacher in Dar-es-Salaam.
    Nazlin Virji: May their souls rest in eternal peace. Ameen🙏
    Raz Mavani: I pray that they all rest in eternal peace 🙏🏼💕🙏🏼
    Shahida Mamdani Sunderji: May the Ruhani’s soul rest in eternal peace. AMEEN

  10. So beautifully explained, and grateful that you shared your visit to the cemetery with us. May Mawla bless you.

  11. Thanks for sharing your experience at the cemetery and sorry for the loss of your parents, we pray that Mawla rest their souls in eternal peace, Ameen.

    We also have lost our son Alim 10 years ago, he was only 19 years old. It’s always hard to lose someone so dear and close to you but it’s even more harder for losing a son,/daughter that’s not normal but we have no control in life; it’s in the hand of the Lord.

  12. Dear Malik,

    Walking with you through your story and how you are dealing with the grief is commendable. Both your parents were great leaders that brought so much wisdom to many people. They always saw the good in everyone and everything. I too remember the lessons I learnt from them that have shaped my life.

    Very happy that you were able to go through the immense work that they had done as you packed the boxes. I too believe I have many books written by them. Touching that someone came to you and gave you the roses to put on their grave and to reassure you that they will visit them every-time she goes there.

    We pray that their souls rest in peace and you continue with the good work through your website of knowledge.

    Best Tasneem

  13. Malik – Just went through your post. Absolutely thoughtful action on your part to visit the Ismaili Cemetery in Vancouver to pay last respects and say prayers for the souls of your late parents and other members of the community. Alhamdulillah!

    As usual, your post has beautiful pictures and good information. Your late mom’s picture outside her residence is so nice. Welcome back to Toronto soon.

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