“And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.”
– Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Today marks three years since my dear friend Bassem Sabry passed away.
This will be a very personal post, I don’t think I’ve spoken about this before but I hope, in writing this, that it makes others sidestep what I didn’t.
I had gotten to know Bassem through Twitter in 2011, a few months after #Jan25, something I will forever be indebted to social media for. Every single exchange I had with him revealed him to be an incredibly intelligent, witty and kind soul. It was a joy to talk to him.
He was brilliant, in mind and heart. In every way.
A year before he passed away, Bassem wrote a moving post on his reflections on life upon turning 30 (and I would deeply appreciate if anyone who is reading this, read that too).
I remember reading it and thinking just how lucky I was to know such a beautiful person, and how privileged I was to have his friendship. I thought of expressing this to him but only “properly”, which would have been by writing him an elaborate and thoughtful message when I had ample time. I will not deny that I was lazy too. Days passed, and so did the months, and I still hadn’t composed anything. The sentiment persisted but time wouldn’t.
In April 2014, through the very place I had gotten to know him, I learnt that he had left forever.
I had looked for time to express myself and it had passed me by, or maybe I had.
Not a day has gone by since April 29th, 2014 when I haven’t remembered him, but not writing to Bassem is the biggest regret of my life. Everyday, I wake up with this regret, this unmovable mountain crushingly sitting on my heart. It gnaws at my heart, just like his loss.
I read of the things happening in Egypt and the world, and I think of what he would’ve said or written about them. His incisive analysis, his articulation.
I think of things that have happened in Pakistan since he left that he would’ve messaged to ask me about.
I think of how our friendship would’ve grown with time, I wonder if my frequent “come to Pakistan someday, Bassem” would’ve ever realized. I mourn a friendship I could have had.
I think of him every single time I exceed a given word limit for something I have to write, and remember how we’d joked that we can never write within limits and it was almost as if it was beyond our control.
I remember him whenever I listen to Shik Shak Shok and how he had laughed with surprise when he got to know that I knew of the song while sitting in Pakistan.
I think of him everytime I turn a page from one of the books I bought after looking at his Facebook album of recommended books. I read the words and wonder what he would’ve thought when reading them.
I think of the kindness, knowledge, honesty, wisdom, beauty and love this world has been deprived of by his departure.
I think of how unfair his loss has been to a world increasingly sliding into chaos and hurt.
I knew him for a short while but even that short left me with a trove of treasure, of things, learnings, lessons, and people I met through him.
And how generous he was to teach me something even in his passing: that one should never spare even a second in saying a kind word, in appreciating people, in expressing how much they mean to you.
I have done this everyday since he left, even with strangers. I hope no one ever loses out on the chance to express themselves to the people they cherish and value.
We take so much for granted.
And maybe how swiftly expressive I am to people now is also my way of making up to Bassem. I pray for him everyday. My prayers are profuse because deep inside, I want to make up for what I lost out on. Yet I know it isn’t the same, it can never be.
Never hold back from saying a kind word or connecting and appreciating those who light up your life in little or big ways, even if just for a minute or forever.
Please do read up on Bassem today, acquaint yourself with the person he was; do look through his work, remember him, and perhaps learn something from him, because his knowledge, wisdom, intelligence and heart were limitless in their giving, and he has left behind much for people to glimpse and gain from. To be better, and to do better.
Spare a thought and prayer for him today and most importantly, do what he would’ve loved: be kind to someone. Or as he wrote, “…the greatest honour that one could experience is to arrive upon a true serendipity of an opportunity to aid and bring joy to another human being.”
For those who are still reading this, I end with words from Mohamed El Dahshan’s tribute to Bassem:
“May you be as as kind, as smart, and as loved, as Bassem Sabry. There’s nothing better.”
Rest in peace, my beautiful friend.
Wish you had stayed longer.