My last moments with my loving Papa, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928 – 2018)

Grave of Jehangir Merchant (1928 - 2018)

Grave of Alwaez Jehangir Alibhai Merchant (December 13, 1928 to May 27, 2018) bearing a temporary plaque with his name. He was buried on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at Victory Memorial Park located in Surrey, British Columbia. Photo: Nurin Merchant, taken on June 2, 2018.

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

I found myself awake at 2:30 AM on Saturday May 26, 2018, and decided to go and spend a few hours with my dad at Normanna Nursing Care. He hadn’t spoken and eaten now for a full 2 days. I spent many hours engaging in prayers with my dad, and stayed in his room until  my mum and brother Fahar arrived to spend the rest of the day with my dad. My mum was able to spend 2 hours with my dad in mid-afternoon totally by herself. She had been married to him for 66 years. That time was deeply comforting to her. She reminded him of the years of service they had dedicated towards Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Ismaili Jamat around the world.

Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant in his room at Normanna 2

Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant pictured in his room at Normanna Care Facility. Photo: Nurin Merchant, taken on February 20, 2018.

My mum returned home at 8 PM. Soon thereafter I told her that I was leaving to see dad. “Come back home by 11:00 PM, you are very tired,” she remarked. I said to myself that I would once again sit close to my dad and participate in the early morning contemplative payers as I had done earlier on Saturday morning. When I arrived in my father’s room  I began monitoring him and played recordings of Qur’anic verses, Ginans, Salwats and recited phrases from the Dua such as “Allahuma Ya Mawlana Antas-Salaam…..Wa Adkhilna na Dar es Salaam” and “Ya Imamaz-Zaman, Ya Shah Karim Ya Mawlana Anta Quwwati” (my father had asked me years earlier to take selected phrases from the Dua and recite them for my strength and courage). I had complied with his wish and advice.

At 10:45 PM the nurse came into the room and interrupted the sequence. She had come to check on my dad’s breathing and change his sleeping position. I again reverted to praying and contemplation. I was physically tired and lay down on the cushion at the ledge of the window from where I could see his face and the movement of his chest and shoulders.

Two hours quickly passed. It was now 12:45 AM, and a new day (Sunday, 27 May) had begun. For a few minutes I had seen his breathing pattern change. When the nurse came into the room to alter his sleeping position, she also noted the change in his breathing pattern. She commented that my dad would pass away that night. I asked, “How long does he have?” Very reluctantly she answered, “Maybe a few minutes or that he could be around for another few hours.” I began praying, “Wa Adkhilna Dar es Salaam”, meaning, “Usher us in the Abode of Peace”, over my dad. I sensed death was going to take place at any moment.

Jehangir Merchant and Maleksultan Merchant at BC Palace

Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and his wife Alwaeza Maleksultan pictured recently at BC Place, Vancouver, prior to the Diamond Jubilee Mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Raiya Suleman/Simerg

At around 1:00 AM, without any intervention whatsoever, my dad changed his sleeping position . He straightened up his head (which had been sideways), to face the ceiling. He looked straight up with his mouth fully open. His eyes had been closed, but now as he looked up, they were wide open. I bent my face over his face and said, “Look papa this is Abdulmalik.” I recited the Salwat and other prayers. How was I to know whether he recognized me?

The nurse who had changed his position a few moments earlier, stayed in the room with me, but called her colleague, a registered nurse. At this instant at around 1:05 AM, I asked the nurse to dip a long cotton swab into the Ab-e-Shifa bottle and lightly stroke his lips and tongue with the holy water. After about 2 minutes, with his face still facing the ceiling he breathed out while his mouth was still open, and the nurse told me that it was his last breath. I said, “Wait, wait, nurse that may not be the case.” I was right. My dad then licked his lips with his tongue, closed his mouth and partially closed his eyes.

I said to myself, “How can he breathe in this state with his mouth closed”, as he had been breathing through his open mouth for hours. As his mouth remained closed, I could see pressure building inside his mouth. This went on for about 30 to 40 seconds, and then astonishingly he opened his mouth and breathed out his last breath. With that last breath at 1:10 AM my dad had just passed away from this transient world into the world of spirit. He was returning to the abode of heavenly peace, the Dar es Salaam that he had many years earlier asked me to remember regularly at times other than during recitation of the Dua. I texted at 1:12 AM, “Dad has passed away.” Came the reply, “Shukran lillah walhamdulillah. Be strong.”

Victory Memorial Park Cemetery

A view of the cemetery at Victory Memorial Park in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, where Alwaez Jehangir Merchant was buried on May 31, 2018. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

His dilsoji (condolence meeting) which was held at Darkhana Jamatkhana on May 30 in Burnaby was attended by hundreds of Jamati members as was his funeral ceremony at Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana on Thursday, May 31. He was then buried the same afternoon at Victory Memorial Cemetery in Surrey. The Samar and Ziarat ceremonies were performed the same evening at Darkhana. We then had a small funeral reception (a bhatti) at James Grill that was attended by very close family and friends.

My family and I are immensely grateful and deeply touched by the hundreds of phone calls, messages of condolences and tributes that we have received since the death of my father exactly a week ago. We may not be able to respond to every phone call and message posted on this website or the social media pages, or sent via email. We wish to inform everyone that their condolences and tributes have given us immense strength and comfort during this difficult period of grieving.

May my loving papa, Alwaez Jehangir, rest in eternal peace. AMEN.

Date posted: June 3, 2018.

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Jehangir Merchant by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment. Your comment may also be submitted to simerg@aol.com.

Please also see earlier piece Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) as well as In photos: “Life of Jehangir” – Ismaili missionary, teacher and writer who rendered long and dedicated services to the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time.

The following is a collection of Alwaez Jehangir’s writings on this website:

Also see