It never crossed my mind, as I kissed you goodbye on the forehead in that ER room on that last day I was home, that that would be the last time I touched your skin, that my promise of seeing you again in 3 weeks, in which I was whole heartedly convinced, would end up as broken as the heart of the body whose hands are typing these words, as nothing engulfs me but emptiness.
How do you feel, they ask me, as my consciousness tries to process the idea that my grandfather and I do not share the same world anymore. I hate being away. I hate not being able to see him one last time. I hate not being there to somehow make it all okay. I hate not being there for my grandmother, whose broken voice over a broken FaceTime call broke my resolve not to break today. I hate not being there for my father whose tear-soaked words were: “It’s the end of the story.”
But Barbar Fares’ story does not end there. It is but the beginning.
Forever young, you are my pride and joy in everything I do. People mistake me for your son. I smile, correct them, but revel at the idea that your legacy is that perpetual. Those deep blue eyes hold the tales of lifetimes in them: from war-torn trips to far away countries to make ends meet for your growing family back home, to seeing your family disperse all over the world, each of your sons and daughters making a name for themselves that resonates across oceans and entire worlds.
And then there’s me, the first grandson you’ve met.
The one that was glued to your hip, tagging along to your card games and rooting for you in all that you did. The one who smiles at the thought of you chanting those Christian prayers in a voice as off-tune as a voice could get. The one you refer to as sheikh el shabeb when you’re asked about. The one you think anyone in a white coat in a hospital room would know. The one you think is the best doctor who knows everything there is to know, even though he’s not.
The one who is worlds away but always has you in his heart, with whom your daily encounters were at first to complain about something hurting before your ailments somehow disappearing and you reverting to being entirely engrossed in what you’d have for lunch. The one who won’t be there at your funeral tomorrow, because I never thought – in any way possible – that today would be something that would happen.
I can picture it now, that event that shall not be named. Priests fielding altars, going about a routine act that doesn’t befit a man of your greatness, and that eulogy spoken by someone who will never truly know you, colored by numbers from the pre-existing sample they paste onto every passing over. “He founded a good Christian family, raised on nice Christian principles. He was a good man.”
My grandfather isn’t just good. He is among the greatest people to exist in this world. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who had the pleasure of encountering that beautiful face, and those who didn’t. I am humbled and honored to be carrying you in my heart and in my body, to be carrying your last name and to hopefully honor it in all the ways it can and should be honored. I am humbled to have had the honor to meet someone as kind-hearted and warm-spirited as you, for there are no kinder people in this world and tonight, everyone sleeps in a colder place with you not being there anymore.
There’s nothing I can say that can pay justice to a man as great as Barbar Gerges Fares. What I can promise is for me to make you as proud as you’ve always been, and then some, in everything I do. From being that grandson who gives you a headache with the “mess” I get into online, to that doctor saving lives hundreds of countries and thousands of miles away, you are there with me in every step that I take.
Barbar Gerges Fares. That is the name of my grandfather. I refuse to refer to him in anything other than present tense because my grandfather is and will forever be present in every fiber within my body, a perpetual echo shaping every decision I make and every breath I take until I am no more. I will carry you with me, till I see you again.