Ariane Rahim shares how her life changed after her father passed away. Her story encompasses the journey of coping and taking on the role as her family’s provider. She expresses an awakened pride in her Afghan heritage, whilst challenging the stereotypical perception of what it means to be a woman.
This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps. This story was produced by Sydney Jarol through StoryCorps Chicago.
“I’m Afghan. My parents are from Afghanistan. I was born in France, but I was really young when we came to America. Before everything happened basically, January 2013, I went for two weeks to Bordeaux to like my home city so to speak. When I got back, my dad is the person who would always be there, you know. So him not being at the airport, there was already something going on in my mind. I’m like, why is my dad not here?
We went to my aunt’s place, that’s where we were living, and I go into the apartment and my dad is there to greet me. And I hug him, and this is like one of the things I can never forget, I hugged him and I could feel his bones. And that was the first time it kind of hit me that he has really changed. That’s when the trip became really bittersweet because it was like, you know, was it really worth it to not be around my dad? But it was also crazy that he changed so much in two weeks. So I just cherish the moments I had with my dad.
This has been the hardest year for me since my father has passed away. It was just like one decision after another. You just gotta survive. I was the one who was calling everyone and answering the phone calls. Letting everyone know that he’s dead and about the funeral services and everything, which a lot of people couldn’t believe. They would come up to me during his funeral and they’d be like, “You’re very brave, you’re like a lion, you’re like a tiger,”… Afghan sayings that mean you’re brave.
My biggest concern was my mom. No one else really mattered. I wanted to make sure her rights as his wife, you know decision-making, Islamically there are so many rights a woman has, but culturally, people try to take that away from you. So now when I look back, I’m like that’s kind of crazy that I sat down with men and I was like this is what my mom is saying and this is what my dad wanted and this is what’s going to happen. Because at the time it was like well I’m just speaking up from dad, I’m his child, but now it’s like, I’m a girl. And I’m talking to these men and even though they’re my uncles, they might take this wrong the way. And a lot of them, and that’s another reason why they would call me like a lion or whatever because it was just kind of shocking. Like why is a woman speaking up so much I guess.
I’m understanding a lot about myself and about us and about Afghans and about our culture, our traditions, our background, our history. so many things I wish I could talk to my dad about as well. I realize how important all these are in making me who I am and how I can use all these to help everyone else. I want to open up clinics in needy places here in America and needy places in Afghanistan. Essentially, what I actually plan on doing is opening up a clinic, a medical school and just like a school in general and then like a hospital. All of this together all in my dads name, walls and everything in my dad’s name. This is a huge plan that I have, which you will Inshallah see the whole progress of.”