On December 18th, at approximately 8 pm, my brother died. His heart failed. He was at the mall, in an indoor cricket ground; the game had not started yet and him and all the others, who were family friends and cousins, were warming up and stretching. He paused just to drink some water, and the next second he was on the ground. He had a cardiac arrest, and his heart stopped beating. He did not suffer or gasp for breath, his death was immediate. The paramedics arrived straight away and tried to revive his heart. It’s said that for a man his age, 30 years old, shock treatment is normally just given twice; but all the cousins and friends around him insisted that they do it repeatedly, over 5 times.
My father was present, he had arrived immediately after one of the cousins had notified him that Bhai had collapsed. My father had called my sister and I, we had also been roaming around in the mall somewhere. Little had we known that just 2 minutes away would be where our brother would lose his life. My sister and I arrived at the scene just as the paramedics were giving Bhai the final shock treatment. I will never forget that sight of my brother lying still and limp on the cold, hard floor, his arms at his side, his legs straightened out, his eyes half-open. I’d fallen by his side and screamed at him to wake up, I had felt like maybe he was just napping, but his glassy eyes revealed that they were not registering anything, that my brother couldn’t see or hear me, that he was gone. I held his hand and patted his hair, despite the fact that everyone was trying to pull me up and away from him. I knew he was dead, but all I wanted was to touch him and be with him for as long as I could for the last time. His hand felt like it always had, slightly rough, but his fingertips had started to become cold. All those episodes of medical tv-shows may try to depict how it is when someone dies, but it isn’t until you touch and feel for yourself that you really know how it is.
It’s now the 4th day since Bhai has died. Just writing the word ‘died’ is hard. As hard as I try to force myself to listen to what people say about all of this being for the better, that it’s Allah’s will, that maybe God has a bigger plan in mind, that Bhai is at peace now and in a better place, I cannot understand it. He was so young, he’d just turned 30 in the summer. He hadn’t seen as much of the world as he’d wanted to, there were so many more places he wanted to travel to and explore. He’d never even been to Lahore, and I had always pushed him to come to LUMS so he could check out the campus with his wife and daughter and he’d talked about doing that next month but now it’ll never happen. How is there any fairness in taking a life away so soon, in snatching away a husband from a young wife, a doting father from an 18-month old daughter, in taking a first-born only son away from loving parents, in taking an older brother away from 2 sisters? Where is the justice in that?
It has felt a little better since we buried him on the 20th, I don’t know if that was because of the anti-depressant I was given or because they say that when a soul reaches its heavenly destination, peace comes along with it. Before he was lowered into the ground, he had to be bathed so that his body would be prepared according to the Islamic tradition. My father and uncle were the ones who washed him and got him ready. It breaks my heart to think that my father, the same man who’d first held his child when he was born and cleaned him and bathed him when he was a baby, had to do the same to the dead body of his son just a few decades later. We were allowed to see him after that, and it soothed me a little to see that Bhai looked a little more peaceful, I’d closed his eyes right after his death at the mall, but even at the cemetery they remained slightly open, as if he was just pretedning to sleep and peeking to see what was going on. His face was expressionless, his face pale blue and so, so cold, but it looked as if he was dressed as a traditional Arab, and Bhai had always liked doing that, so it made me a little happy to see him like that at his final stage. I hope he heard me somehow when I said I was sorry for all the times I’d hurt him and defied him, and when I said that I forgive him for any pain he may have caused me in his too-short life. I think he knows it, because every time I try to sleep, I can hear him singing. He loved doing that and I was always the one who would sit and listen to him and give suggestions to how he could play around with the song, so maybe he’s letting me know he heard me and he;s fine by singing to me.
Bhai, I don’t know where you are but everyone keeps saying that you’re in heaven, that you’ve been given a place by God at the highest stations of heaven so I hope that you’re happy there. Your sudden death has made me so angry and frustrated but if you’re okay then all of us will be fine too. Don’t worry too much about Mom, we’ll take care of her extra hard. You were the apple of her eye, remember how much you used to bug me before and try to make me jealous that she loves you the most out of all her children? I know that this is true now, you were her son, her first-born, the one she used to cherish and dote on and make kheer at 4 am if you only mentioned you felt like having it. I know you wanted to do and see so much more, that you had many plans, that you wanted to LIVE, so maybe your own death has even made you angry and annoyed, but please don;t feel that way. You may be physically gone from our world, but you live on in so many ways. Your music, your words, I will keep them alive for you, I will finish your stories. Your daughter, our precious darling Ayana, is so much like you and we will see you in her and through her as well. We will never let her forget about her Baba and tell her many stories about how funny and charming he was and how insanely he loved her. Wherever you are, I know you love her still, just as much as you did when you were alive.
I miss you so much, and I know that this yearning will never go away, it’s like a wound that will always remain open and fresh. I will miss you at my graduation, at my wedding, at the birth of my first child, at any gathering when we all sit around because you loved being the center of attention then and you would do all these hilarious imitations of people. Even now, when so many of our relatives have flown in from Karachi to be here, I feel like you will walk in any minute and start doing one of your funny Anarkali renditions. The last time we all were together like this was just 4 years ago, at your wedding, except now it’s your funeral. I will always feel your absence at every stage of my life, but now I have a reason to make an extra effort to remember all our shared memories which I would’ve otherwise forgotten over time. I am sorry for all the times I resented you, I know that you were just trying to protect your baby sister from the harshness of reality; I am sorry I raised my voice at you the last time that I was at home; I am sorry I didn’t call you or email you more often all those months that I was away from home, I wish now that we’d spoken more than just once every semester. I am glad you picked me up from the airport this time, and that we got a chance to have our usual debate about Punjabis. You always bugged me that I was becoming like them because of living in Lahore, and I always defended myself. I am also glad that in the 3 days that I got to spend with you here before you died, I got a chance to make you chai. I had been doing that for you since I was 7, and I finally got to do it one last time on the 17th, just a day before you left us.
Everyone who came to your funeral commented that, in all the years they’ve lived in Dubai, they have NEVER seen such a funeral that was ever so crowded and so completely bursting with people. Cars kept rolling in every second, and people parked miles away to walk to the cemetary. It made me happy to see that you touched so many lives in your own short life, that you had an impact on hundreds and hundreds of people, from CEOs to peons in all the places you’ve worked. You had so many well-wishers whose lives you affected positively, so many people expressed how grateful they felt that they ever knew you and it’s an amazing thing because the more hands that are raised in prayer for you, the better you will feel. People have been calling from all over the world, there are so many that we have never heard of yet they insist on telling us how you changed their lives. You lived a short life, Bhai, much too short, but even in just 3 decades, you managed to connect with and touch the lives of hundreds, almost thousands of people. They will always remember you.
You will never be a part of any family picture again, but for us, you will forever remain an integral member of the Sakrani house. You are gone, but you will live on. In our hearts, our memories, our minds, we will hold high the flame of your life. I hope you never, ever forget that we all loved you immensely and will continue to do so for as long as we are alive.
It is said that when you look at a picture of the deceased, it hurts their soul. Nonetheless I am posting a picture of Bhai, but when you look at it, please make a dua (prayer) for his heavenly soul so that he feels better.