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'Thamer’s life was big'

He believed in his friends, he comforted our fears and celebrated our strengths

Gulf News

We lost. I am tempted to leave this page blank. In that I would satisfy every sentiment. It would reflect what I feel, and I feel empty, and it would acknowledge in the act of silence a humbleness towards other mourners.

I would cower behind the impotence of language and find solace in its failure. But deep down I would know that the failure is mine, and Thamer would ask me to write, even if to make one statement, express one feeling.

He was that kind of guy. He believed in his friends, he comforted our fears, and celebrated our strengths. He made us better, and now he is gone. My heart breaks a thousand times, and every word seems deficient, and every sentence seems futile.

My grief is as deep as his competitiveness was intense. I see our mutual friends, we talk about him, we laugh and cry. The wound remains open. Time will not heal it, for it never heals this kind of wound. I’ve seen this before, all that happens is that time makes you better at living with the void, the grief takes its place inside you, and you learn to normalise its added weight.

I remember the moment we bonded on the shores of Spain, over a conversation about justice, change, and truth.

Thamer’s intellect was fierce, this is true and attested to by many of his mourning friends, he was charming and funny, articulate and considerate. But what left the deepest impression was his empathy, a quality too rare, and often overlooked. For all else is pointless if we don’t have empathy, even towards those we disagree with, those who upset us, those whom we feel wronged by. He taught me, in his own experience, that a life lived without empathy is a life too small.

Thamer’s life was big. In the multitudes of friendships, in the acts of kindness, in a nudge of encouragement, in a smile of acknowledgment, even in sharing his own vulnerabilities and fears his life expanded beyond his many successes.

In his absence we are mourning our lives without him, he left too soon and the loss is violent. “Was” is a brutal word to use when writing about a friend, it declares, though our senses may reject it, that our loved ones are no more, that our memories with them will have no additions, that we will not see that smile, hear that laugh, or lean on that shoulder, again. That is too much to be summarised in those three cold letters.

Thamer will no doubt grow in death much larger than he was in life. This is perhaps the nature of things. Sometimes, we take the presence of our loved ones for granted, and in their passing, louder words and longer letters become our futile attempt to make amends for the guilt of not taking that phone call, responding to that message, going on that trip, or staying longer in that dinner. That idealisation is not insincere, it is genuine, it is an attempt to reconcile the harsh reality of a life that goes on with a life that ended. If I knew Thamer at all, I’d think he’d want us — just as he did — to live substantive lives, to not settle for the mediocre, to be true to what we believe in, to constantly challenge ourselves, to be curious, and throughout it all to be human-beings to the fullest extent.

Thamer was a wonderful human-being. I am a better man for having known him, and I am a weaker man for having lost him. He left a light that shines through his friends, his siblings, his parents, his wife, and his three beautiful young boys. He spoke to me on February 3, paying his condolences over my aunt’s passing, he was upset that I didn’t tell him earlier. He told me we should get together during the week. I never called. He passed away on February 8.

In the totality of his life, I was a sliver, and I will miss him.

Muath Al Wari is UAE-based researcher. You can follow him at