i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

I have not put thoughts into words for quite some time, having not posted here in almost three years now. A tragic circumstance brings me back to the keyboard, to pour out what I am overwhelmed and burdened by in the hopes that somehow my heart will find relief.

Aldiana.

I met Aldiana in my first year of Primary school, her sister Elena and I in the same year level, Aldiana two-year levels above us. Elena and I instantly became the best of friends, and by chance I did not gain one but two, for where Elena was Aldiana was there, right by her side as any older protective loving sister would be. The entirety of my childhood, adolescence and teenage years lies with Elena and Aldiana, quick to become my surrogate family, my cousins as we would often introduce ourselves. It is in hindsight that I now realise that Aldiana was more then that to me, she was a sister in its entirety not by blood but by choice.

Aldiana taught me many valuable lessons in life. But I want to share a story here that will forever stand out in my memories of her and sum up just how profoundly special she was. One night I recall having a sleep over at her place, Broadoak Street, Springvale South, I can clearly picture their childhood home. I wouldn’t have been any old than 7 or 8, Aldiana 9 or 10 at the time. I woke in the middle of the night frightened and startled, having felt an overwhelming longing for my mum. It was probably one of my first sleep overs at a friend’s house, my first time away from home. I remember waking and walking over to her household telephone which used to sit propped up on a side table by the doorway entrance. I sat next to the phone sobbing, debating whether I could pick up the line and call home. Aldiana, nocturnal even in her youth heard me in the hallway and came to see what was wrong. I sat huddled up against the wall, crying, and all I could say embarrassed and shy, was “I miss my Mum – I don’t want her to die.”

I was confronted by the reality of my own mortality at the time, in context to another story I had heard not long before this encounter with Aldiana in her hallway. And my very young mind couldn’t quite grasp the thought of death so soon, the idea of someone I loved passing away. I took those thoughts and fears and they followed me where-ever I went, and that night they plagued me with fear.

I remember her placing an arm around my shoulder and giving me a hug saying, “its Ok Tanj, if you miss your Mama, I can wake up my mum and we can drive you home.”

This was the earliest memory I have of just how beautifully accepting and validating Aldiana was. She always held space for your feelings. This was my earliest memory in childhood of having found someone I knew I could truly be vulnerable with. Someone who understood words unspoken, and valued vulnerability above all else. I learnt that through her. I admired her in so many ways, but it was her heart and her empathy that I admired most.

Petite in stature but mighty and large at heart, Aldiana’s warmth and embrace, there aren’t many people who feel like sunlight, she was one of them. Go figure, the girl who avoided the sunlight at all costs, our little vampire we used to call her, pale porcelain white skin susceptible to the burn of the harsh rays of the Aussie sun. It’s no wonder that her skin remained youthful in her age, our very own Benjamin Button, Aldiana aged in reverse. That sun though, it would ignite her migraines, those torturous migraines which plagued her for far too long.

When we played Aldiana always ran the show. Elena and I her little minions. She would create worlds for us, we were never bored, her creativity knew no bounds. One time I remember she made us play dolls in the yard, but we were not allowed to use our barbies, no, we had to create and make our own dolls from sticks and leaves we collected in the garden. And when it came to playing with our dolls, Ken and Barbie were far too mediocre for her, no she would reenact our favourite television drama, 90210, our collection of barbies soon transformed into our very own version of 90210. She would call it, ‘realistic Barbies’. She oversaw everything we did and made it a childhood filled with endless fun. She even chose all our childhood extracurricular activities, from karate, to gymnastics, every single moment outside of school were spent together.

I recall my saddest moment was when I knew that I would not attend the same high school that Elena and Aldiana were enrolled in. That my mum would separate us because we had moved homes in 6th Grade and Carwatha was a closer and more convenient option. But fate had it that they would soon move too, and move across the road from us this time, reunited and together again. It wasn’t long after that that Elena and Aldiana were enrolled into the same high school as me, and our story continued. Aldiana had a brilliant mind, and her wisdom that far surpassed her age. Her library was a collection of her favourite authors and poets, books upon books and I bet she read them all, some twice over. A treasure chest of knowledge and critical thought, and a strength and conviction lied within her that could not be rivelled by anyone. Aldiana never backed down in a fight, sometimes we would engage in a war of words, but she always won the battles. There really was no match for just how brilliant she was, and the strength and power she held.

Aldiana knew me intimately, Aldiana knew all the layers, the good, bad and ugly. Aldiana was the embodiment of what it meant to love without condition. She was an integral part of my history. She knew my burdens, my mental health struggles, my sadness and fears, and she never once, not for a split second in time let her love waver. She loved every piece, all the broken ones the most.

I can’t begin to describe what it means to have that kind of love and support, especially during a time when I felt I had lost it all. Lost the love, respect and support of family, but not Aldiana, not for a single second. Even in distance, she was always there. But I find myself at a fork in the road, at a junction where the ground beneath me has been pulled away – I find myself faced with the reality that “always there” has become “but now she’s gone.”  

She’s gone.

O humanity! If you are in doubt about the Resurrection, then ˹know that˺ We did create you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then ˹developed you into˺ a clinging clot ˹of blood˺, then a lump of flesh—fully formed or unformed—in order to demonstrate ˹Our power˺ to you. ˹Then˺ We settle whatever ˹embryo˺ We will in the womb for an appointed term, then bring you forth as infants, so that you may reach your prime. Some of you ˹may˺ die ˹young˺, while others are left to reach the most feeble stage of life so that they may know nothing after having known much.

In the last 18 months I have had to say goodbye to three parts of myself as I watched pieces of my heart lowered into the earth from miles away. My maternal Grandmother, maternal Uncle and now my Aldiana. And I can’t help but recall the verses above and the promise that Allah made, “every soul shall taste death… … But never will Allah delay a soul when its time has come.” (Quran, 63:10-11). Some will live to 91, some to 70, while others succumb at age 37. Some will only know a minute of life on earth, while others are taken back whilst still in the wombs of their mothers. With Allah lies the knowledge of the hour, the wisdom of the seen and unseen. All I have is my faith to hold onto now, my prayers and supplications to the Creator that they have each returned to more merciful hands. That their existence now lies in eternal time, with eternal health, wealth and pleasure. In an abode where no illness, famine, grief or pain burdens them. Back in the hands of the Creator of souls, the Fashioner of hearts and architect of the Universe.

To the ones that I have lost, to my Aldiana, Baba and Vujce Jovo, rest and heal in eternal peace my loves.

Aldiana Sterjova 1983 – 2021

Jovan Sekulovski 1950 – 2020

Ilinka Sekulovska 1928 – 2020

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