Strangers Impacting the Lives of Strangers | Tanya Khan, A Person I Remember

by - June 03, 2014

For my writing course I had an assignment to write about a person whom I remember. The following is a reflection on someone who clearly impacted my life more than I could have imagined, Tanya Khan.

Strangers Impacting The Lives of Strangers

Standing on her tiptoes, full of confidence in herself, with a smile accenting her dimples, she said, “You’re my role model...I want to be like you when I grow up.” Awed, I couldn’t help but recall myself at a similar age, thinking the same but lacking the courage to say it aloud. 

I remember my visits to the Mosque as a child. I was surrounded by several hundred women, but there was one woman I was continuously drawn to, her name I didn’t know. Wherever she went, an aura of complete humbleness, sincerity, and righteousness followed. Something about her felt welcoming, whether that be her ability to make everyone feel comfortable in her presence, or the way she let her Hijab drape over her in complete confidence. Perhaps it was these qualities that compelled me to silently pray to be like her when I grew up. 

The summer prior to starting high school I attended a Girls Workshop held at the Mosque. After teaching us ways of wearing the Hijab, she directed us over to a table with some supplies to make pins. Beads rolled out of the plates they were placed in, while sequins of all colours and embellishments of all sizes covered the table like a shattered mosaic. As I sat in disbelief gazing at the astounding colours in front of me, unsure of where to begin, I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder. Startled, I jumped, upon which she asked, “Do you have any ideas for a pin?”. As I silently proceeded to take a seat, she reached out to grab a few supplies from the table. Moments later, she handed me a pin with a crystal pink jewel on its end. It looked like something that, if worn by her, would bring out her rosy cheeks and pale skin. Grateful for the pin now placed in my hand, I smiled and promised myself that the following school year I too would wear the Hijab...and so I did. 

Similarly, I continued to be amazed at her perfection in every role she took on. She was the essence of a mother, wife, teacher, friend and interfaith activist. She not only perfected her duty as a Muslim woman, but continued to make a difference in the community as a teacher at Louis-Honore Frechette Public School, having achieved her goal of vice principal this school year. She wished to teach about her faith while learning about others, whether by inviting a Star reporter to her house to spend the day with her and her family or by putting up dry wall in homes for Habitat of Humanity. Her sincerity continued to amaze me.

On the morning of August 6th, 2013, I was approached by my mother to send out an email about the sudden demise of Tanya Khan to fellow members of the Ahmadiyya Community. I was unable to put a face to this name, yet was filled with dread. Upon realization that she was indeed the person I was hoping she wouldn’t be, tears rolled down my face and onto the keyboard in front of me. Why I was so miserable, I didn’t know. Anger and rage within me began making me question life. But deep down, I had the reassurance that since it was the month of Ramadan, she had acquired a high position in Heaven, InshAllah. I spent countless nights thinking about her three young daughters, all between the age of 6-12, as a feeling of guilt turned my stomach into knots.  

That day made me realize that no one can change the world, but everyone can make a difference. My prayer of being like her when I grow up, has turned into an ambition. She made a difference in the lives of many strangers like myself, making her funeral the largest of the Ahmadiyya Community in Canada. She acquired more in her 38 years of life than I could ever dream of doing. Her donation of six organs upon her passing sum up the extraordinary person that she was. I now live by the words on the art she purchased a month before her demise, “If you don’t live for something, you will die for nothing.” She’s a person I remember because she’s a person I can’t forget.

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  1. Your blogs make my day! This was another beautiful one and ver inspirational. I hope I become like you both:)

    1. Aww that means so much to me! JazakAllah! I'm not sure about becoming like me, but InshAllah you can be inspired by her :) <3