i was a scrawny little kid. used to get beaten up as a freshman at highschool all the time. dad never let my mum complain, said it would build character. one of the giant to me at the time gcse students took pity on me for some reason resulting in slightly fewer bruises from the bus rides home.
we developed a fond friendship over the following years. in his final year at school he had an accident working the lathe in the school workshop and died instantly.
this was my introduction to death. we were only peripheral friends but i felt a deep emptiness and it took me a little while to work my way through the emotions.
there were only a couple of hundred kids in my high school total but from then on there were usually a couple of deaths a year, often car-related, this was dubai after all. each one a progressively lesser impact. later my grandfather passed by which point i was left only feeling sorrow for those grieving; my mother and her family.
one of the first winters upon returning to dubai from university, my high school geography teacher, perhaps forty-ish at the time, seemingly healthy, collapsed, completely alone, in the middle of the desert where he was participating in a relay triathlon. there are few who will play larger roles in my life; he taught, inspired, loved and more. our friends who were racing with him came over to my house later that evening to break the news. he meant so much to us, they wanted to be there for me, all around me, as i found out.
i smiled, breathed deeply, hugged each one of my friends, and sat down still smiling. that moment, the first death of my young adult life, inspired so much: artistic explorations, entrepreneurial ventures, adventures in love. it continues to inspire much of my life and i know lives of our mutual friends.
he’s never really left us. and this understanding of what death isn’t remains with us.
one of those friends who shared the news with me saw his little brother pass this morning in yet another car accident. i write this for him.