The X Page: A Storytelling Workshop

Paper + Pen_Final

Nona Nona

by Nazmi Alkawash


This is Nazmi, who came Canada in 2014 with my small family of five—me, my husband, two daughters, and mother in-law. My mother-in-law was dear to my heart. Her warm hugs and kisses were the source of my happiness. The best food and clothes she saved for me. When I was sick, her tender words overwhelmed me and filled my heart with love. 

I called her Mama because I felt that I was her daughter. She called me by the special name, Nona Nona.

We fled the war in Libya, fearing for our lives. When we arrived in Canada, I felt relaxed and happy after feeling fear for my family. 

Within a short time after moving to Ottawa, Mama began to feel sick. The situation was getting worse every day and it was difficult to know the reason. Moving from one hospital to another, the white paper and the pen were the two friends who came with me to doctors, and in the same paper, receiving answers from them to help me understand the situation when returning home. 

One night, we were watching TV in the living room. At 12:00 o’clock, I tried to wake Mama to take her to bed. I could see her eyes saying Nona Nona but she was not able to move her mouth. I ran and woke up my husband (wake up, wake up) and he called an ambulance. When I heard the knocking at 12:30 a.m., I opened the door, and the surprise was that they were carrying a lot of things, and the stretcher. My heart was beating a lot, fearing for her and for my husband, especially since he was her only son. 

Mama needed surgery. I was fearful and I was relieved the operation was successful. 

Our family moved to Waterloo for my husband’s school. I found myself living in the midst of wonderful community. The chemotherapy sessions were passing peacefully and still the paper and pen are the best friends to me on every visit to the hospital. I played the role of the nurse in caring for Mama. I studied to be a nurse back in Libya, but I could not finish the courses. Like a nurse, I had to withdraw water from her body, change her bandages, and clean the wound. 

I cared for Mama for four years.  This saved the family money, while my husband was studying. I was also learning language in a new way. 

After the doctors’ report that said she was in her last days, it was difficult to feel comfortable. Even my daughters, ages nine and ten, preferred to stay with her at home instead of going out or playing in the park. The first question when we had a plan to go out was, “Is Grandma coming with us?” If the answer was yes, that meant the best day. If the answer was no, the plans had to cancel. 

One night, at 3:00 a.m., I went to help her go to the bathroom like every night at this time. I did not hear her voice call me like she always did. My husband woke up to check her and he asked me to turn the light on. My eyes were looking to her face. Her face was like an angel with a smile. I kissed her and I felt her cold hands. I heard my husband say “Mama, Mama, wake up, wake up” but we did not hear any response. 

Until now at 3:00 am, the voice of that lady still echoes in my ears “Nona, Nona”.