On the 27th of November 1996 my youngest brother Baback, twenty two years old, one of seven children was struck down with an illness that in the end cost him his life, in just one night.
He went to hospital at around 10 pm and he died in less than 6 hours of a heart embolism. He had been fasting for all the months of Ramadan that he had missed in his youth. He fasted for six months in a row because, he felt it was his duty to catch up his days with his god in case: he was to die young. He did not want to leave anything owing on his part as part of his duties to Islam.
His body had obviously been weakened by the continues fasting of six months in a row. When his chest was infected his body was too weak to give him a fighting chance to survive. According to family and friends that took him to the hospital they described him as coughing up blood, no one thought he would shortly be drawing his last breath with blood in his lungs.
On arrival at Hamad Hospital he was misdiagnosed as having TB and put into an isolation unit and left unattended. His health deteriorated fast as he was not treated by anyone. He was just left to his own devices and on his own. His body went critical, he screamed out to our cousin, that he was dying.
He started to recite the Koran and saying he was going to meet his maker. The hospital staff belatedly decided to take action, it was off course too late. In the end it proved to be too little too late. My brother was declared dead at 5 am after having nearly eight to ten pints of blood and plasma put into him.
As was the custom in Qatar he was buried that very same day, no autopsy was done, no answers. All we were told as the family was that It was “His time to go, it was his destiny, It was Allah will”. It certainly wasn’t our will as the family, we were destroyed.
His death was a juggernaut that hit our entire family, brothers, sisters cousins alike, it was our first death. It was the first sorrow of our lives. It is at times like this you question the equity of Life. It is not fair when the person you least expect to die dies first, a lesson learnt to this day, never expect anything to be as you think it will be. I wore black clothes in mourning for 11 months out of respect for his passing.
Baback was the youngest and most unexpected person to pass away out of all us. I had hoped I would die before him and in fact before all my brothers and still hope too to this day. I never want to see another brother buried before me. They say “no parent should bury their children” so the state of my parents minds at this time was an unfathomable grief, they were inconsolable. My mother was broken that day and still carries the scar of that day on her soul. She has refused to visit his grave and confront the simple fact that her son is buried in a small plot of land in Qatar.
My father was at one time one of the wealthiest men in Qatar, he squandered his fortune in the Palm Beach Casino, amongst a variety of other world wide casinos. He had an addiction with gambling, even when he was living in his dying years he would still go to the casino and play, with next to no money. Simply put he was addicted and could not help himself. I unlike some of my family do not blame my father for his disease of addiction and his misfortune in the twilight of his life. He was a self made man, he was given no fortune, so was not obliged to pass anything on to us. He run away from his older sister house when he was 10 years old. He lived and made himself into a success, good luck to the young runaway kid. In the end he did leave us enough for us all to build a fortune with after his death, may he rest in peace.
At the passing of Baback my father was riddled with guilt for the rest of his living days. He felt he never did enough for his youngest son when he needed him the most. He was unable to provide for his youngest son as he done for all of his elder siblings. He lived with this guilt, he had feelings of inadequacy as a father which no one could breach. Unlike the rest of us Baback did not go to boarding to school, all the way through. Unlike the rest of us he did not have the advantage of wealth given to start a business or an education paid for in the best universities in the world, the chances given to us in comparison to our youngest brother were nil.
Our father is buried in Qatar even though he passed away in London. It was his last wish to be buried in Qatar next to his son, this did not happen exactly as he wanted as the graveyard Baback was buried in was closed by 2004 and no more burials were allowed in that graveyard. At the very least it is in the same country at least where he made his fortune and his name, where his sons still today carry on his name in business, Shafiei Steel He passed away on the 2nd November 2004, just short of eight years after the death of his youngest of seven children.
Now to the point of this whole post I am writing this post on a flight in between Qatar and london. Fourty days after my brother was buried I traveled to Qatar. I had not slept properly for any night before my arrival to Qatar. The first real night of sleep I had was when I went to my brothers graveyard in the middle of the night, with a pillow and blanket and lay on his grave.
It was the first night I felt any peace because I knew he was only no more than a meter away from me. It was the first time I felt any peace within myself in fourty nights. I slept till I was woken up by the call to prayers in the morning. I went back to sleep again till the sun came up and the birds woke me up with their chirping.
I said my goodbye to my youngest brother that night.
I left Qatar within a few days and I was flying out on a Gulf Air flight. I was seated on the righthand side of the plane. I asked the flight attendants which way the flight takes off? They said they don’t know, I asked if I could speak to the captain. They said they would ask and I was shortly invited to the flight cabin. I asked the captain which way the plane takes off he informed me that all Doha International flights take off over the Bay of Doha. I thanked him and started to walk out of the cabin. He asked me why I had asked? I informed him that I had lost my youngest brother only a few days ago and if the flight had taken off in the other direction I would be able to see his graveyard as we took off.
The plane moves and we start to go through the motion of taxiing to the runway I notice that the plane is not going the right way. The plane takes off and it is flying into the desert and not over the Bay of Doha, I look out of the window of and spot the graveyard where a part of me is buried to this day, I am in tears at this gesture of human empathy uncalled for, with no promise of gift other than the touching of understanding human souls, who reach out when they see another in pain. The captain had got special permission from the tower to fly the wrong way for take off.
The cabin crew inform me that the captain has requested I join him in the flight cabin. I arrive into the cabin and the captain was sitting in his chair so I could not reach out to give him the biggest hug in the world. I was invited to stay for a while, he told me “when I saw you I saw you have a mountain on your shoulders”. It was then that he mentioned that he had only just lost both his parents in an accident so we shared our moment grief and parted ways, his name was Chris I believe he was a South African national he was simply sent to me by angels that day.
Thank you for being there for me that day Captain Chris. I wish I knew where you are today so I can thank you again, two souls sharing a time and space, I write this in tears same as the day you flew the wrong way up a runway to show empathy to a fellow human being.