December 8, 2007

Later that evening, packed and powdered, the five Parkins solemnly set off down an ethereal and restraining Western Highway. At 7PM it was still very, very hot. The air conditioning was blowing as strongly as it could and was a cold, monotone distraction for the pondering passengers.


Now Mrs Parkin was especially despairing and downcast at her sudden loss. Mr Parkin, also, was very downhearted but the task of driving to Melbourne pre-occupied him. Layla, broken-hearted was slowly pulling through. The twins had been told that Aunty Teary was gone to God. At six, however, their unexpected trip to Melbourne was a grand adventure.


[Mrs Parkin]:

“That was Fereshteh [Sholeh’s mother]. They have room for us. And Graham, there is a change of plan. They are bringing Tahirih to Baha’i House in Glen Iris. Let’s drop in there on the way.”


[Mr Parkin]:

“Yes, of course.”


Car Parkin produced a low-key, workman-like performance all along the Western Highway. An hour or so into the journey the older family members began to softly interact, mixing private remembrance of Tahirih with brief public responses to each other. Now and then, they would gently discipline the twins in rote fashion. It was a half-day-off-life situation. Night set in quickly and invigorated them. By the time tremendous Melbourne and the West Gate Bridge came into view, a sense of optimism had returned and normal relations were being rethawed.


The Parkins trooped into Baha’i House and met a man who said ‘In the side room, just there. The Erfanians are there at the moment.’ Acknowledging, they followed the instructions towards the side room. Approaching, they could see Tahirih’s coffin, a number of Erfanians as well as a couple of others.


[Mrs Erfanian]:

“Oh Afsaneh, Afsaneh, Graham, we are so happy to see you.”


She ran towards them and hugged and kissed Afsaneh and shook Graham’s hand tenaciously. And came to Layla.


[Mrs Erfanian]:

“No, it can’t be. Is this baby Layla. My God, you are a grown woman. Adnan, come here, see Layla.”


Mr Erfanian, in the process of greeting the parent Parkins, looked over and with great affection clung onto Layla’s face and pinched her cheeks very roughly. ‘Painful but pleasurable’ thought a throb-faced and bemused Layla.


[Mr Erfanian]:

“Oh, we have thought about you so much Layla. It is so good to meet you at last, not just a quick talk on the telephone. We are honoured to meet all of the Parkins. Alex and Shirin, let me give you a cuddle.”


[Mrs Parkin]:

“Mrs Erfanian, Mr Erfanian, we are all so sorry at your loss.”


The Erfanians accepted the condolence demurely and thanked the Parkins. Mr Erfanian turned aside with Graham and Mrs Erfanian turned to the other side with Afsaneh.


Layla heard to her left

“I’m glad it was at least quick. I wouldn’t have wanted to see her in pain.”

“Yes, thank God that he saw fit to limit her ordeal, Mr Erfanian. Is Matthew here?”

“He was. He went back with Shane to put him to bed, poor dear.

and to her right

“We left Haifa when we heard the diagnosis, by the time we got here she was not really able to communicate with us.”

“I wish I had known Mrs Erfanian, to at least have held her hand.”

“I know Afsaneh. It was so quick I…. I’m sorry Afsaneh, for some reason Tahirih didn’t want you to see her in that state. That’s what Fereshteh Jackson said, it was a dilemma for her.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me, Mrs Erfanian, I understand completely. However, she was a sister to me and I feel part of me is gone.”

“Onwards and upwards though, Afsaneh, at least that’s all a mother can believe in at these times. We mourn for ourselves not for the dead, don’t we.”

“That’s very true.”


Layla, having being isolated at the outskirts of the conferring groups, was approached by a handsome young man wearing a well-fitting suit. Behrouz Erfanian. At twenty four, he was the Erfanians eldest son. Yes, he was very handsome and, indeed, quite a respectable and loving individual. He was already very active in the Faith. And very well known due to his work at the World Centre and on overseas projects. Of course, being the son of a House member contributed. Though deeply saddened at the untimely death of his older sister he found himself very uplifted to have the opportunity to meet such an attractive young lady. He loved to lure the ladies.


“Allah’u’abhá, my name is Behrouz.”



“Hello. Yes I know, I have heard of you. My name is Layla.”


Behrouz thought that was always a good start. That a lady should know of him.



“I’m very sorry about Tahirih, Behrouz. Of course, she was my sister too.”


Easy now, let’s not go too far down the sibling route thought Behrouz.



“Thank you Layla. Good gracious, Layla Parkin isn’t it. Of course, I remember you too. As a baby in Haifa. I was only a small child myself. My, you’ve grown! God does as He wishes. Yes, Tahirih would always talk about you in very loving terms. I’m overjoyed to meet you in person though, overjoyed. We should be friends, eh?”


Just then, as Behrouz was working on Layla, Mrs Erfanian bustled over and said that she needed him for a moment. As soon as she was with him and away from Layla she said ‘Behrouz, you leave that young girl alone. No funny business here, enough of all that. Not at this time, or any other time either. Now go talk to people and behave yourself.’


The Parkins left Bahai House and began the short drive to the Jacksons.


[Mr Parkin]:

“Layla, Mr Erfanian says that Tahirih wanted you to recite the Prayer for the Dead.”



“Yes dad, Sholeh told me earlier.”


[Mr Parkin]:

“Are you okay with that responsibility Layla? Do you know it? I’m sure Tahirih would understand if it made you feel uncomfortable.”



“Yes, I’m fine with it. And I think it will help me come to terms with Tahirih not being around anymore. I know she is fine though and that helps too. I had a …. dream of her this afternoon and she was smiling and comforting.”


[Mrs Parkin]:

“A dream Layla? A dream in our house? What did she say in this dream?”



“Yes, in our house. She told me to do my best. And to give Matthew and Shane a big hug. And she was so happy, ecstatic even, when she left.”


[Mrs Parkin]:

“Thank you Layla. Thank you.”



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