Flight 752

‘Her heart was like the ocean’

Sisters Asieh Banisadr, 40, and Salmeh Banisadr, 40, remember their mother, Niloufar Sadr, 1958-2020

Asieh: My mom was extremely connected to people and to nature. She’d say, “Look at how beautiful the sky is!” She’s the one who taught me how to be grateful for the little things.

Salmeh: We lived together in Montreal and Toronto. We were roommates. Every day we would have at least one meal together—lunch or dinner. We watched TV in the evenings—her favourite was Downton Abbey. And every night she’d kiss me on the forehead before going to bed. I used to get annoyed. She’d do it even if I was talking to my boyfriend on the phone. She’d say, “I have to!” Now, that’s the thing I miss most—her goodnight kiss, and the way she held on tight when we hugged.

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Asieh: In Farsi we say, “Her heart was like the ocean”—always connected, always giving. My mom was very open-minded. She didn’t care where you came from—age, race or social status. Our family reflects that. My husband is from Africa, and our brother’s partner is South Korean. We’re a very international family.

Salmeh: We had her unconditional love and support. She was truly selfless. She’d leave her phone in the bathroom while she showered so she could answer my call. I called her every day at 5 p.m. after work. Sometimes—as with any relationship between daughters and their mothers—I would say mean things to her. She always responded with silence. She refused to hurt me in any way.

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Asieh: I live in Montreal, and Tehran is nine hours ahead. On the morning of Jan. 8, I called my mom. I usually go to work early, and my husband drops the kids off at school. On that day, we changed our routine—I went to work later. If that hadn’t happened, I’m not sure Mom and I would have spoken. When I called her, she’d just woken up from a nap and she was getting ready to head to the airport in a few hours. We talked about how excited we were about the weekend of Jan. 17. My kids and I were going to visit her in Toronto.

Salmeh: I saw the news about Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 online. I sent my mom a message on WhatsApp—it never went through. She always taught me to think positive thoughts. She said that positive thoughts would manifest what I wanted in life.

Asieh: My mom taught us to choose love. We don’t know what can happen tomorrow. We have to cherish life and enjoy the present.

—as told to Christina Gonzales

This as-told-to appears in print in the March 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Her heart was like the ocean.” On our cover this month, we offer a Farsi expression of condolence to illustrate a collective spirit of national devastation after the downing of Flight 752. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

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