On Sunday 15th of December 2013 at approximately 10:30 am Cairo time my younger brother Mahmoud 32 years old was met with fatal train accident that almost immediately caused him his life.
I was out with a friend when my phone started ringing and it was mom, generally I don’t answer her calls to save her the international calling rate then when she stopped ringing I call her back, but this time I answered only to hear her scream “YOUR BROTHER DIED”. I felt like a bullet imploded in my stomach, my whole being was in utter shock and disbelieve and I was at loss for what to do. I told her I will call Cairo where my brother lives and call her back. (My mom lives in U.A.E.)
Every time I attended to make a call I was staring at my phone unable to think, unable to perform basic task of selecting a number to dial and bursting in tears in between trying to hold up to attend to finding out what happened to my brother. I handed the keys to my friend as I couldn’t safely drive in such state of being and asked him to get us moving while I made a number of calls. Calls that accidentally broke the news to my little sister who was alone at her uni and other calls that confirmed some details of what has happened to my brother and finally a call to work telling them I am not showing up for work and immediately starting my bereavement leave.
No flights were available before the next day. I was on the phone every hour with my parents and my sister throughout the night. I said goodbye to my wife and kids after having to explain the concept of death to my three year old son and set off on a 30 hour journey to Cairo. 30 hours that felt like 30 weeks, the time stood still. I hated the distance and hated not being there with my parents for my brother’s burial.
I landed on Tuesday morning to find my mom, two of my cousins and my aunt waiting for me at the airport. The heartache is indescribable.
Throughout Tuesday, a flood of visitors came to the house to deliver condolences, I was feeling exhausted, upset, and angry and confused. I blew up at a paternal cousin of mine for her insensitive approach to topics I deemed untimely demanding her to either sit quietly or forever leave and never to return to visit. It was a full on day since I arrived at 11 am till 1 am the next day.
While going through that process of grieving and accompanying my family (including Mahmoud’s wife) I was amazed at the number of people that implied expertise at life and shamelessly gave all sorts of advice like the know it all. I was amazed at the number of people that allowed themselves to judge what is an appropriate time or place for my expression of sadness, to tell me not show my tears and be strong for my parents. I was amazed at how only a handful of people ask the question (what do you need, and how can I help) while everyone else didn’t care much what I needed and only offered the kind of help they thought needed.
When I confronted a dear friend with how I felt about them questioning my tears and asking me to express that on my own in private cause he knows better what my parents need to see, I ended up receiving a cultural lecture about why it is right to say so and how me having spent so much time abroad I no longer understand the Egyptian cultural habits in such circumstances. The interesting thing is he is totally ignorant about the cultural context as such remarks have come to me left right and centres from people of all walks of life and all sorts of background.
At the same time these frustrating conversations took place, I was surrounded by other God Sent Angels that I would like to thank.
My wife, for despite her grieve process and her loss had the difficult task of being alone with my two young kids while I left without a return date.
Nilson who was with me when I first heard the news, drove me home and sent me off to the airport and heard me cry and all he did was be there for me and hold me tight.
The Nezhad Geiger family for always being there for our family and especially during such times.
The Baha’i community in Auckland for looking after my family in my absence and supporting us through such emotional time.
The Egyptian Community in Auckland, who called me in Egypt called my wife back in Auckland and offered so much support.
The Baha’i community in Cairo the and great support the provided my sister and Mahmoud’s wife while we all were on planes home.
My Mom’s family, uncles, Aunties, and cousins who flew back from all sort of places around the world to be with us and support us at such times, stood side by side with all of us at every step of the way being burial permission, funeral preparation, driving, dropping off and picking up various people to and from various places, and more importantly, just being there when needed, ready to jump and lend a hand.
My grieve process is like any grieve process a complex one and unique to only the grieving person. The blessings that God showers on me and my family during such trying times have helped us stand strong in the face of such great and shocking loss.