PART III: You rebuild the country, I will rebuild my pocket

Madar died in 1991, the same year that Dad finally managed to buy a small flat in Tehran and we moved out of our rented home. Madar’s death was a most devastating blow. She was the purest person I had known and my dearest friend. She died alone, in her small room in Qom. We had been trying to persuade her to move to Tehran and live with us but she refused. She didn’t want to lose her independence. And, she’d said to me, if she died in Tehran then Dad wouldn’t bury her in Qom, near the holy shrine.

According to her landlady, she suffered a heart attack during her sunset prayers. We received the news late at night and set off for Qom early in the morning. By the time we reached her rooms, the ambulance had already taken her body to the morgue. But her prayer chador and mat were still spread on the floor. Dad went to the morgue to take care of the paperwork while I sat in the middle of the room.

I could not shed a single tear.

I knew where she kept her most intimate things, and, when I opened the box, her will lay on top of everything else, including a shroud from Mecca and the deeds to the grave she had bought for herself in a Qom cemetery. She had instructed us explicitly not to spend any money for her wake.