Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

The Happiest Day of My Life

A rare chance to celebrate amid bombing and bereavement.
By Samah Samad
  • A woman and her daughter cross the street close to ruins in Aleppo’s Al-Marja neighbourhood. (Photo: Hussam Kuwaifatiyeh)
    A woman and her daughter cross the street close to ruins in Aleppo’s Al-Marja neighbourhood. (Photo: Hussam Kuwaifatiyeh)

Night had fallen and the bombing was over. I sat in the dark waiting for my fiance Fuad.

We had been engaged for over two years but the time had never seemed right for us to get married. Time after time we had postponed our wedding, hoping things would get better, but they never did.

That night Fuad told me he wished to seek my mother’s blessing to get married, so we went to see her in her room.

Ever since my brother had been killed and my father imprisoned, my mother spent most of her time locked in her room. She rarely talked to us, too preoccupied with staring at their photos on her mobile phone.

Before I could even broach the subject, my mother said, “How would you feel about getting married one month from today? Fuad, isn’t your house ready for both of you to move in?”

“Yes!” he replied. “Everything is ready. All we need is your blessing.”

Fuad and I looked at each other with pure joy. Finally, we could begin planning the happiest day of our lives.

Despite our dire financial situation, my mother insisted on holding the wedding at our house, hoping this would bring happiness back into it.

“Your father would have wanted you to have the perfect wedding, and so would you brother, Zuhair,’ she said. “I am only fulfilling their wishes.”

We immediately began preparing for the big day. My mother asked a friend of hers who lived in Damascus to buy me a dress. Her friend went to various bridal shops to send me pictures of different dresses. When I finally decided on one, she bought it and made the dangerous journey to Douma to deliver it.

I remember coming home from work that day and hearing voices in our guest room. My youngest sister ushered me into the room where I found my white bridal gown.

I was thrilled, it was just as beautiful as it had seemed in the photograph. I was so overwhelmed by the moment I forgot to greet and thank my mother’s friend.

The women urged me to try the dress on, so I did. My mother took one look at me and began weeping. I knew her tears were a mixture of happiness and sadness. I myself could not ignore the pain and sorrow I felt at that moment, knowing my father and brother would not be there to share our joy.

As my wedding day drew nearer, my female relatives came to help us decorate the house. Each had their own story of loss and sorrow.

My aunt’s son had been martyred two months before my brother. One of my cousins had not seen her husband since he had been detained over a year ago. Another had lost her husband while she was pregnant. Her son, now four months old, would never set eyes on his father.

Our fight for freedom had cost us dearly, and we needed a reason to rejoice. We knew that our martyrs, who had sacrificed themselves to rid us of oppression, would want us to live life to the fullest.

My cousins, friends and I decided to venture out to the local market in search of decorations, but we couldn’t find anything.

“Who needs decorations with all that’s happening?” one shopkeeper asked us in surprise. “Never mind flowers, people can’t find basic foodstuffs such as flour, rice or sugar.”

In the end we settled for some paper and crayons, and decided to make our own decorations and flowers at home. Soon enough, our house was turned into an art workshop.

The decorations took us longer to make than anticipated as we could only work during daylight due to the daily power cuts.

My wedding was held on October 22, 2013. The day started with a visit to the hairdresser where I sat patiently for four hours having my hair styled.

As soon as I got back home, the celebrations began. I was welcomed with ululations and rushed into my room to change into my wedding dress.

Our house was a hive of activity. For one day it was full of music, singing, dancing and laughter. Our home had found happiness again. Even my mother’s eyes shone with joy.

When the groom arrived we took group photographs with our friends and family, then set off to our new home.

I still have my wedding dress. I hope that one day I will be able to wear it and show it to my father. Then, together, we will take that one photograph I was denied on the happiest day of my life.

Samar al-Ahmad is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor who lives in Eastern Ghouta and works in humanitarian aid provision. She is married with one daughter.

This story was produced by Syria Stories (previously Damascus Bureau), IWPR’s news platform for Syrian journalists.