Cancer took my grandmother when I was 17-years-old. Actually God did. At the time, I was a high school social butterfly, fully immersed in the world and all its distractions, but within a year of my grandmother’s death, I underwent a metamorphosis.
My grandmother’s health began to fail in 2011 and within six months she was a husk of her former active, engaged self. As I watched her steep decline, I felt acutely aware of my own mortality. If I received a fatal diagnosis today, how would I feel about my 17 short years on this earth? The sadness of leaving my parents and siblings and of never sharing in their milestones and their trials aside, a more frightening question plagued me. If I died today, would I go to heaven or hell?
I would toss in bed late at night, recounting all my various shortcomings; my sins flooded my mind like an angry body of water exploding through a collapsing dam. I thought about all the times I had argued with my parents, not even because I believed I was right but out of a stubborn desire to assert my independence. At times I had even lied to them. I felt embarrassed remembering the events I had gone to wearing clothes that revealed more than my religion allowed, but determined, nonetheless, to be seen as trendy and pretty. Most of all, I regretted all the times I had neglected my daily prayers.
Editor’s note: Rana Moustafa is an Egyptian-American journalist. She is a graduate student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She enjoys creative writing and health journalism. Her views are solely her own. A longer version of this article originally appeared on Alt Muslimah.