Thursday, 1 May 2014

When I buried my friend.

I wanted to write this for those who cared deeply about Bassem Sabry and couldn't be there yesterday as he was taken to his final resting place; and there are many, Bassem's friends are everywhere in the world. It is also intended as part of  a small effort to honor him, to use just this little incidence which took place even after he died to tell people about him and to make the world realize the extent of the loss it suffered because of his passing.

Bassem's funeral was set to take place after Dhuhr prayer (just before noon) on Wednesday 30th of April, the day after he passed away. People gathered at the Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in Mohandesseen, where Bassem lived, in order to pay their last respects. They stood in the Cairo heat awaiting the body to arrive, but it didn't. Soon it was revealed that the burial permit wouldn't be given out until an autopsy was performed. We weren't sure about the extent of the delay, so we went to sit at a place nearby the mosque, each holding on to the phone and trying to find out more news. As the hours progressed, news was spread that the funeral wouldn't take place on that day after all, but would have to be postponed since the paperwork was still not in order. And so people waited and waited, with red eyes from the lack of sleep and the many tears shed over their dear friend. Eventually, it was revealed that the body would be taken straight to the outskirts of Cairo, in the 6th of October district, where the prayer would be held at a small mosque at the graveyard. This was in the afternoon, at around 4 p.m.

So people rushed into their cars and made the long journey out of Mohandesseen at rush hour in order to get to the funeral spot on time. We waited at a place nearby the cemetery for the car carrying Bassem to arrive in order to follow it to the mosque. As the ambulance carrying him came closer, the cars starting moving. In a spectacle I had never seen before, the cars which were part of the funeral procession, carrying Bassem's friends and loved ones, started moving, all with their flashers on. They took up the entire highway and formed long lines, all headed to the cemetery as the sun was setting. It needs to be noted that it is very exceptional for burials in Egypt to take place after sunset. Yet all these people, in droves of cars, who had originally planned for a funeral at noon in the central Mohandesseen district, ended up on the outskirts of Cairo at around 6 p.m., headed to the cemetery where they would lay their friend to rest.

After the funeral prayer was conducted, he was carried by his friends to the tomb. It was a solemn scene, his loved ones standing as he was being put to rest, some silently contemplating, deep in thought, while others mumbled prayers and goodbyes, all with tears running down their faces.

So many people stood there as the sky was getting darker and the stars started appearing and Bassem was placed in his final resting place. So many people loved him dearly and wanted to pay their respects, perhaps say their goodbyes, try to get a sense of what had just happened, to realize the loss that had befallen them. So many people who had experienced Bassem's goodness and kindness, so many people whose lives were touched by him in different ways. And these were only those who were able to attend, there are many more who were there in spirit and in thought.

To bury a friend who went so early and so suddenly is the hardest, most painful thing. But as I was standing there, watching him being put down, agonizing over the immeasurable loss, I remembered him telling me that it was worth it, love is worth it. It is worth risking having to feel such pain at some point. It was worth it, Bassem, knowing you and loving you was worth it. 

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