Captain My Captain 💔

I haven’t written anything about Fadi since his passing 3 years ago today. It was both an intentional decision and in hindsight, a wise one. I know myself and I have been through a loss before on social media. I had no control before and I just spilled everything online, almost in real-time. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to grieve privately and allow others to grieve in their own way. I would have resented people, most probably, had my acts of public grief not been met with immediate praise and validation.

Watching others in my family grieve publicly and openly on social media was difficult at times because a part of me wanted to join in. But he was my cousin and he was their brother, husband, and uncle. They were closer. His passing hit them deeper and harder. His loss broke me, but I decided that it was their time to grieve. My relationship with Fadi was different than theirs.

Fadi was my father, mother, and sister. He was my family. He was my safe space, my north star, captain my captain. He laid his hand lovingly on my shoulder. Him dying brought that all to the conscious. That’s why it was so devastating. I had taken him for granted while he was on earth. I couldn’t admit this to myself then. But it’s become obvious over time that I just assumed, perhaps childishly, that he would always be here. He would be best man at my wedding. We would sit in his garden in Mâne and have coffee and talk music. He would give me his blessing about my wife and he would see my children grow up. I would grow older and he would be there. I would dedicate albums to him and honor him at gigs. I would invite him on my first tour to guest feature and let him steal the show. I would consult him on songwriting and get back his stone-cold, sharp critique. Him dying wasn’t part of the equation.

His death revealed to me how deeply I loved him and how much he meant to me. How I didn’t show up for him. How I didn’t visit him enough, despite him living only 2 hours away from Stockholm. How he would show up in my dreams when I would be so sad and disheartened. How I didn’t ask enough about him, check in, see what he needed, just connect with him. I did no work of the intimacy pursuant to the depth of love I felt for him.

I’ve only dreamt of him a few times since his passing, signaling to me perhaps that him not being in this realm means he’s also left my consciousness. I’m growing up and growing older without him. I still think of him and I still love him. But he’s not part of my every breath, as he used to be for a while after his death. He’s no longer part of my subconscious stirring quietly, like when he was alive.

I had his wedding anniversary saved in my calendar. It was the day before his death. I deleted it. He’s no longer here.
I used to go back and re-read his messages and our conversations. I haven’t done that in a while. He’s no longer here.
I would stop and notice when his photo would show up in other profile photos. The other day, I saw him and I was surprised he was there. Then, I remembered that he was gone. He’s no longer here.

I became sad that his death had become a given. Just like I had taken his life for granted.

As I approached this year’s memorial, I have started to stop and look wistfully at his old apartment door here in Cairo. I never thought that I would live in Cairo, let alone live here without him being alive. It didn’t matter if he had lived here or in France. He just needed to be alive. But I pass by his door and there is no trace of him. The door has been re-modelled and re-designed. On my first day here back in March, I happened to see the inside of the hallway, as I was passing. The new owners had left the door open and I peered in. The walls are different and the flooring is different. The image from my childhood and teenage years is gone. He is gone and so is his apartment. It’s now an unmarked grave. There is no physical evidence of it being his apartment other than the memories in me and all whom knew him.

In poorer parts of Egypt, it is common for people to live close to, or on top, or next to communal tombs. It could be their immediate or even distant relatives. I never quite understood this, thinking as a Westerner. It seemed macabre and odd. Death should be separate and removed out of sight. We shouldn’t have it staring it in our faces every day. It should be in a graveyard, far away from everyday life, perhaps on church grounds or even outside the city.

But this is Egypt. Our pharaonic heritage reminds us that life and death co-exist silently. We live together with death. And now, despite being fortunate to live in a middle-income area of Cairo, I live on top of my cousin’s grave. His grave is in my apartment building and I pass it multiple times a day. Some days, I notice it and I remember him. On other days, I pass by the 3rd floor and I don’t even think about it. I barely remember it’s there. Living on top of a grave has become a normal thing to me. It’s comforting. Despite his grave bearing no marks of him, I knew he was there and I knew he lived there.

Earlier this evening, I took the stairs instead of taking the elevator and I stopped outside the apartment, the grave. I imagined the old grey door, recalling where the broken piece of stained glass was. I used to peer through this when I was younger, to see what was going on inside, whether he was inside jamming or hanging out with friends or if it was dark. It was a portal into the world of love and unconditional acceptance. I came back to the present and saw a polished, brown door. Not his. The portal is gone and he is gone. And his passing no longer pains me. It’s become a part of my bones.

I miss Fadi, the musician, the effortless listener, the philosopher, the comedian, the egyptologist, the polyglot, the older brother, the everything. My everything. His hand no longer rests lovingly on my shoulder. Captain my captain.

My last message to Captain a few days before he passed
Verified by ExactMetrics