The Year I Wish to Die

An exercise in humility

Sand Farnia
Human Parts
6 min readAug 23, 2013


Alireza Mafiha is hanged in public in Tehran, Iran, January 20, 2013. Photo: Amir Pourmand, ISNA/Associated Press

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
- Omar Khayyam

I was conceived somewhere in the country of Iran in the winter of ‘76 by a young couple. My mother was 19 and my father in his mid-20s, both idealistic communists living in the third world with a totalitarian military regime in power and a fanatically religious population. They were opposed to both castes.

During that power struggle, both before and after the revolution of ‘79, it was (and still is) very common for the Iranian government to capture members of opposing political factions and torture them, so brutally that they would be reduced to making public “confessions” of their guilt. My brother and I would watch these confessions, played on television, as children. They would, of course, be followed by the untelevised but sometimes public execution of the guilty (as appears in the photo above). As it came to pass, our father happened to be one of these “guilty” people, and so I was introduced to violent death at the age of six.

I often imagine how much pain my father endured without revealing his family’s secrets. What sacrifices did he make towards the end? Being tortured must rearrange a man’s priorities. How did his change? The story of my father’s death deserves a book. And an anthem. But this is a different story.

My father’s was not the first nor the only death I knew as a young child. As we were swept from city to town to village, and hidden from authorities in attics and basements during a time of war, I became more and more familiar with death and dead bodies. Sure, I was only six or seven, but certain images at that stage of your life always stay with you. The amount of suffering and turmoil for my family during that time is staggering.

My mother searched for my father for two years under her maiden name, not knowing if he was alive or dead, while at the same time hiding us and herself from danger in that extremely hostile and awful place. Naturally, from a very early age, I did not think I would live that long.

It was only through my mother’s sheer determination and willpower that my brother and I landed safely in the United States of America on January 4th, 1985.

My mother followed simple working-class principles. Hard work produces results. Willpower determines fate. You make your own luck. The best way to accelerate serendipity is to put yourself in the right place. She knew the mere act of setting foot on American soil would drastically improve our future. To her, and to me in retrospect, the ends justified the means. Our lives were too precious to be wasted in a primitive and barbaric land.

So she lied and manipulated the weakest part of the system to enter this country with no intention of ever leaving. The consequence? A decade long court battle in the immigration system. We asked for the legitimate right of asylum, and were denied it. Toward the end of 1995, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed our final appeal, and denied relief.

I remember sitting together as a family and trying to decide where to go: Canada? Australia? Iran was out of the question. By then, we had lived in Oklahoma City for over a decade. We had attended the schools and worked in the shops, and we were a part of a new community, as Americans. I felt as if we were being thrown out of our homeland, and for my mother, it was the second time.

Once again, through the sheer determination and will of my mother, and a far fetched idea from our lawyer (shout out to Lawrence Davis in OKC), we rallied support from our community. We actively asked for help from our friends and neighbors in the form of letters, and lobbied our (Republican) Congressman, Ernest Istook. With help we were able to convince Mr. Istook to take up our cause of staying in America and being American. Because it is what my mother wanted for us.

Since she had some strong friends in Houston, she decided it would be best for her to move there to help our cause, while my brother and I attended the University of Oklahoma. She moved to Houston in early 1997.

My mother was killed in a car accident in Houston, Texas on November 13, 1997, just before all her aspirations, all her dreams, and everything she had longed for, worked so hard for, and sacrificed so much for, were about to come to fruition.

This link is an ode to her: I love you, mom.

After this, I felt like death was around the corner. All the statistics and facts of longevity in this society would not have dissuaded me from the obvious truth: Life is fragile, and death is swift and coming.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam became my bible, and I adopted a philosophy of hardcore hedonism. My highest priorities in life were music, travel, drugs, sex, and gambling (not necessarily in that order). I didn’t just live, I attacked life.

Others thought that I was in a downward spiral because of the tragedies in my life. Yes, I did feel the pain, but it was just another part of life. I loved life. I wanted to experience it to the fullest before I died, which would be very soon, as history had taught me.

Too often, though, I got reckless. I took risks that put my life in danger. I was flirting with death.

For me, happiness was the here and now. My pursuit of the physical pleasures of this world was the driving force of my life. There was nothing more… until I outlived my father.

The first milestone of my life was the age of 31, because I was sure that my father had not reached the age of 31, regardless of exactly when he was murdered. From a young age I assumed that I would not outlive my father, because the odds were stacked too highly against me. The dead bodies in Iran had taught me, they were engraved into my soul.

I took it for granted that I would not outlive my father.

Wow! What a feat I had achieved. I was inspired! Imagine the possibilities of life, if I could experience it fully!

This was the time in my life that the light came on. I took a page out of my mother’s book and put myself on soil that would make my future better. I moved to the beach in my favorite place, Tampa Bay. I made it a goal to make good decisions a habit.

If I truly loved life, why am I not taking steps to extend it as long as possible? It is irrational, knowing how fragile it is, to abuse it, or the temple that supports it, your body!

Thus ensued a transformation of mind and body. My health became a priority, and I began achieving healthy, long-term goals.

I can do anything!

I should have been dead by now! How am I still alive? Oh wait, I know.

The sheer determination and willpower of my parents. This willpower took a child born to atheist communists in a third world totalitarian regime being overthrown by a fanatically religious majority, and transported him to the greatest society of humans on Earth. Even when the bureaucracy of that new society created a wall, this willpower overcame it, such that the very leaders themselves succumbed to it.

I turn 37 on Monday. Six years from now, I will have outlived my mother as well. So then, what is next? What is the third milestone?

It is the year I wish to die: 2077

I can choose how long I live in this world, by making the right decisions and creating the right habits to extend my life, as my parents did for me. I have already begun this process. My milestones are numerous both in those achieved and those still on the horizon.

As for my parents, I am only starting to understand the willpower they instilled in me now. I have been a child for over three decades, not knowing what to do with it. Now I am becoming an adult and learning. I think too many people take their blessings for granted, and I do not want to disrespect my parents’ legacy by doing the same with mine.

Writing this has been an exercise in humility for me. I did it so that I do not forget where I came from, where I can go, and what I can achieve.



Sand Farnia
Human Parts

I walk through mind fields. Cat lover. Writer. Entrepreneur. Cofounder of The Writing Cooperative.