“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 and I would rather not speak about it but I hope it makes someone avoid what I did.
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.
And 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 31.
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 i.e by writing him an elaborate and thoughtful message when I had ample time. I was lazy too. Days passed, and so did the months, and I still hadn’t composed anything.
Until April 2014, when I learned, through the very place I had gotten to know him, 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. He wrote so well.
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 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’d laughed with surprise that I knew of it sitting in Pakistan.
I think of the kindness, knowledge, beauty and love this world has been deprived of by his departure.
I think of how unfair his loss has been to a world and to a people who need someone like him the most today.
I think of my wish of going to Egypt and visiting him, just as I wanted to in his life.
I got to know such great people and things through Bassem.
It was a blessing knowing him.
And how generous was he 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. Some people find it odd how expressive I am to them, but I learnt a hard lesson. I hope no one ever loses out on expressing his or herself 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. I know it isn’t the same, it can never be.
Please do read up on Bassem today, spare a prayer for him and most importantly, do what he would’ve loved: do an act or say a word of kindness to someone.
For those who are 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.