“In our hearts, we all know that death is a part of life. Death gives meaning to our existence because it reminds us of how precious life is.” – Author unknown
My composition, Darkness into Light, was born from the ache in my soul after I learned of the heartbreaking loss of life in the Ukrainian air tragedy that ushered in 2020. Each death an individual tragedy. The piece reflects the anguish that tears at us in the wake of this senseless, heinous crime.
Spoken word poet Maryam Ghouth wrote the searing words that accompany the music. Words that reflect the confusion, the shock, the disbelief, the regrets and the spiritual angst. Words that are a reminder of how important it is to cherish our loved ones. I have interspersed them here with the stark events to reflect and affirm the turmoil of emotions behind the cold hard facts.
Shortly after the dawn of the new year, a passenger jet carrying 176 people bound for Kiev was shot down by an Iranian anti aircraft missile minutes after takeoff from Tehran, scattering the aircraft’s fragments across a wide swath of farmland. Lives snuffed out in an instant.
It floods us with questions that have no answers.
All passengers and crew onboard Ukrainian Flight 752 were killed. Eighty-two Iranians and 63 Canadians; also Ukrainians, Swedes, Afghans, Germans and British nationals Among them 15 children. One less than a year old. Thirty-three of the deceased were under the age of 20.
We stand side by side in prayer for you.
One hundred and thirty-eight passengers were to catch a connecting flight to Canada. That flight arrived in Toronto with 138 empty seats.
Where are they?
The plane was carrying many of Canada and Iran’s best and brightest – physicians, dentists, engineers, teachers, mathematicians, scholars – graduates of science, engineering and medical schools destined for graduate school or teaching jobs in Canada, people working hard for a better life but who still maintained ties to Iran. They were heading home to Canada after visiting family in Iran during the winter break.
Have they entered another realm? We don’t know. We may never know.
Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, siblings, newlyweds, couples returning from their wedding, mothers with their children. Entire families. Parents left childless. Children without parents. Families ripped asunder. Like ripples in a pond, the impact spreading to infinity. Their psychological trauma we will never know.
It forces us to build a life . . . Without those who once formed the threads that wove our reality.
Nineteen Canadian universities lost some of their most outstanding minds. Among them:
Farough, a PhD student from the University of Manitoba, an “outstanding scientist” in immunology whose work had the potential to save millions of lives.
Saba, one of the “brightest lights” in the biology department at the University of Alberta, along with her sister Sara, a recent graduate in psychology and their mother, Dr. Choupannejad, a prominent obstetrician and gynaecologist.
Mohammed, an “exceptional medical student” at the University of Toronto, a “change maker.”
Zara, a Ph.D student at the University of Windsor and “rising star,” an “enormous force” in the field of solar energy.
Fareed, PhD, Carleton University, pursuing molecular genetics, returning from his wedding.
What would I have done had I known . . . They’d be gone so soon.
The deaths have hit the Canadian Iranian diaspora hard. So much talent and promise. Extinguished. Leaving an irreplaceable void. So much excruciating emptiness. What could have been. What will never be.
Leaving us incomplete and undone.
It is one of the worst losses of Canadian lives in aviation history.
We must befriend time . . . Feel into our pain and allow our grief to run its course . . . And then rise above.
Amid the grief, anger and despair, Maryam’s words, and I hope, my music, help to remind us that grief also serves to help us recover, and in a way, re-unite in our heart with the person we have lost. It forces us to find ways to cope with our irreparable loss.
And when our hearts have tired . . .And we are ready to give up the fight . . . We will become . . The wisdom and mercy we seek.
As you listen to this piece guided by Maryam’s healing words, let me leave you with the words of Irvin D. Yalom, author of Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death. “Confronting death need not result in despair that strips away the purpose in life. On the contrary it can be an awakening experience to a fuller life.”
We will emerge . . . From this darkness . . . Into light.
That beautiful concept is what we have tried to capture in music and poetry. I give you Darkness into Light.
Information about Maryam Ghouth’s storytelling and shadow work can be found at www.maryamghouth.com and Instagram @maryamghouth