Mohammad El Sharif

I lost my uncle.

My mother’s face crumbled on the call. She couldn’t hold back the tears. Neither could I.

He was by and large a towering figure in my life. To understand the reverence that I held for this man is to understand my mother’s own upbringing. My uncle was the same age as my father, they were in the same class - small town Lebanon. My uncle however couldn’t finish his schooling. He had to shoulder the responsibility left by his own father. My grandfather died around the ages of 50 (heart attack) and left behind him his wife and eight children. The oldest barely in her early 20s. The youngest barely a child of 4 years old. I remember considering the weight that was on his shoulders. Yet for most of his life my uncle was a jovial character. His smile always warm. Natural.

My favourite memories that are seared into my memory however are as a child he held a special place. He loved kids. So much so that even after raising his fathers, he had seven of his own. During the years of war, he would pick us all up from the airport, an arduous journey, with a smile on his face. The best welcoming committee anyone could hope for. Optimism always shining, even when the country had fallen apart.

In that same mini bus/van he would pile all the cousins (there must have been 10 of us at a time) up and take us to the beach. Then we would go and get the best ice cream in the world (I made sure we had the same at our wedding). When we got home his work was not done, he would line us all up, hose us down from all the sand and salt water before sending us off to our mothers.

Sharp. He was a do-er. He would get shit done. I remember my mother telling me about the times her brother would come back exhausted from work after most of her family had gone to sleep. My mother would make him something to eat and off to bed. Only to wake up again before the family had woken up and repeat the cycle all over again.

He wasn’t a flamboyant character. A man who always lived in modesty. A man who lived two lives. One before and after his stroke. Things changed. There was a brief time where his mind wandered. Then there was a time where he was obsessed with the family tree. Something was lost. In life, you get one body and one mind. Sometimes parts of one fail before the other.

My mother had seen him a few days earlier. They’d talked for 20 minutes (a rarified feat), but he was getting hungry so he had to excuse himself and go. You’d get a few minutes from him here and there. Always in a seeming rush. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll catch up soon.’

My uncle Mohammad died yesteday.


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