Hamzi Abou Alfa

At 7am, on Thursday, 27th of July 2017, one of my father’s uncles died. You see my father’s uncles really were more like surrogate fathers than uncles. To think of them as only uncles is to do a disservice to their relationship.

It’s not that hard for me to express my affection for Hamzi. A softly spoken man, with the warmest smile and fiendishly clever wit. His house, always an exceptionally warm place for me.

My fondest memories however of him are his interactions with my own father. My father could never say no to Hamzi. If ever he had a real weakness to his uncles, it was for Hamzi. Every uncle embodied a different lesson in life, from Hamzi he learnt kindness.

Sometimes Hamzi would frustrate my dad in a way that I could instantly relate to, as I would oftentimes experience that very same frustrations with my own father. Those frustrations melt away when you understand that you are completely powerless to do anything, just smiling and get on with, knowing that this person has stood by you in thousands of big and small ways throughout your life.

The hardest part of today however was the thought of his daughter Farah rushing through the airports, through the traffic to try and get to her father’s funeral. I don’t know why this mental image just destroys me — maybe because it’s the image that made the whole situation real for me. The moment you realise that he’s physically gone.

Of the many legacies that one can leave behind, memories of those you touched feed the fire and keep the person’s spirit alive in your mind — in that way he’s never gone. Another legacy would be in the children you helped raise. In that regard Hamzi and his wife Ouhayla, have left an incredible legacy in their children who have the same humility and kindness, as their parents before them.

I checked the last time I wrote about death in my family was for my dad’s other uncle Ahmed, who passed away 9 years ago now. I wrote that eulogy when the wound was still raw. Ahmed wasn’t the last gentleman of Saida, he was but one of the last. Hamzi, like his brother before him, undoubtedly belongs within this elite group.