Hisham should have turned 29; he didn't. He didn't turn 28 either. He turned 27 on November 20th 2006 but died four months before his 28th birthday.
I have seen him twice already - not him personally of course but someone who looked like him. The first time I saw the guy who resembles him my heart raced so quickly as I looked - stared - at the guy as he walked past me. I must have looked like I have seen a ghost. A thousand thoughts rushed through my head as I experienced shock, reasonable thinking about the fact that it is impossible that this guy is him - and immediate sorrow of re-living the loss of a friend. Remembering causes sorrow that is as painful as living a loss for the first time. Or maybe it is like that just for me. I never really acknowledged the fact that Hisham doesn't exist anymore. Even writing it down now is so hurtful - yet it feels unreal at the same time. Up until now I have managed to avoid writing it down - or saying it out loud. I just pretended that his death never happened. I would tell myself that he is well and living in some other city - lie to myself to make myself feel better just like you would lie to a child who can't handle some brutal truth. It is not like his death was so sudden that it left me shocked and in total denial. I visited him several times in his hideous ICU room in the hospital. I called his parents - or made someone else call them - every single day to check on how he was doing. On the day of his funeral I went to his parent's house to offer condolences. I wore black. I saw his coffin. And I cried all day long. Yet, all these never managed to really convince me that he is really gone because every time I try to logically think about this fact it seems so horrific, painful, distant, and unreal that I just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that he has to be alive and well and preferably in another city which is why we can't see him any more.
Remembering him is very painful. Walking into his office and seeing someone else sitting in his chair on his desk was something I was never able to handle. I know that companies don't turn office spaces into shrines - I didn't expect that but deep inside I wanted his office to stay as it was - and I know that the only logical thing big corporations can do is to fill up empty spaces. I know that because I was the one who was expected to and assigned to do his work. Working in his place and trying to fill his shoes was one of the hardest things I had to do. It only took me a couple of days to discover that he was protecting me from the cruelty of all the people around me. I also discovered that he dealt with insanity without ever complaining and that he always simplified things for me and asked me to focus on getting things done instead of drawing my attention to all the problems that were happening. I discovered that he was one of very few people that were honest, pure, and genuinely truthful. I had never been able to understand the extreme form of honesty he used to express. It frequently shocked me, occasionally bothered me, and in some rare cases hurt me. Within less than a week from when he was hospitalized I developed a deep appreciation and respect to his over-honesty and a disdain to everyone else's fake smiles and attitudes. I never had the brevity to stand up to people the way he did. He called things as they were. I always chose my battles and most of the times I would just ignore the backstabbing, lies, and endless gossip. I knew about them but chose to ignore them indefinitely and focus on getting things done. He would never have chosen my approach. He was very interested in fairness, justice, rights, and Truth. Seeking these made Hisham what he was and defined his death as a loss to all of us whether we realize it or not.
Thomas Friedman at the Saudi regime lobby
4 hours ago