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Ms. Waddiyah Saleh: the neighbor who taught me true friendship


woman woman wearing Love Tshirt

I moved to Germantown (Philadelphia) 5 years ago from New York City. A few months before I moved out here I was hit by a car. My right ankle was broken. My left tibia was shattered. I had to have two surgeries and I was in rehab for about 5 months. When i was ready to move to Philly, my sister and my late friend, Bill, moved my things for me because I couldn’t do it myself. When i finally got here I was still using a walker with limited mobility.


One of the first people I met when i moved in to my apartment was my neighbor, Wadiyyah Saleh. She instantly welcomed me into the community and became a source of encouragement through my healing process - from walker to cane to standing on my own two feet. Very few days passed where I wouldn’t hear something to the effect of: “You’re on the cane now! Lookin’ good, lookin’ good!”


I quickly learned that Ms. Wadiyyah was the neighborhood gem - the person everyone knows - the person everyone says hello to and the woman who says hello right back! Everyone stops to talk to her and when people are going through difficulties, they don’t mind sharing that with her.


Back in March of 2021 Ms. Wadiyyah’s life changed.

I went to work one morning and for whatever reason someone came by the office and donated some flowers for employees to take home. I like flowers but I typically don’t keep them in my home. In any case, I decided I should take them.


I got off the city bus after work, began walking to my apartment, flowers in tow, and as i approached my building, I saw Ms. Wadiyyah walking in my direction.


“Ms Wadiyyah, how you doin’!?”


She looked at me and with a face that was confused, shocked, and distraught, all at the same time; and she said:


“My son just died”.


I felt like my jaw had hit the ground.

“What! Your son died?” I said, “We were just talking about him a few weeks ago. What happened?”


I instantly knew I had picked up those flowers for Ms. Wadiyyah even before i knew she needed them.

At the time she didn’t know all of the details because the autopsy hadn’t been done. She was just in a daze and I had no words to offer. At that moment i turned and looked in my bag…and I saw the flowers I had taken from work. I pulled them out and said, “these are for you.” I instantly knew I had picked up those flowers for Ms. Wadiyyah even before i knew she needed them.

 

A few months later…

I lost my best friend unexpectedly to cancer. And once again faithful Ms. Wadiyyah was there as support for me, even in the loss of her son.


As I struggled through how to process this loss and considered Ms. Wadiyyah’s grief, I was honestly devastated and trying to figure out what I was going to do with all this sorrow.

I was doing some volunteer work with the radio station in my neighborhood, G-Town Radio, and decided to turn in a proposal for a show about grief and loss - giving people an opportunity to talk about the loved ones in their lives who have passed on.


Guests talk about loved ones who have died more recently, people who have been gone for decades, friends lost during the pandemic, and loved ones taken by inner city violence.

I have now been hosting Grief Journeys for a little over 1 year. Guests talk about loved ones who have died more recently, people who have been gone for decades, friends lost during the pandemic, and loved ones taken by inner city violence.


I count it a privilege to offer a platform to help people share their stories about grief and love. And I am thankful for my neighbor, Ms. Wadiyyah, who as you can probably guess, was the very first guest on Grief Journeys!


Janice Tosto

Philadelphia, PA



 
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