Toronto, January 25, 2015. Today I lost another friend. He was a gentle, compassionate man, about a decade older than me. Nazim Hirani was a leader in the community, an admired man, someone you could always count on, a gifted listener with many close friends. Last year, Nazim was diagnosed with Lymphoma, the same cancer I was also diagnosed with in 2012. It was a devastating time for him and his family as they tried to make sense of this disease that had invaded his body and threatened to change their lives.
Nagib and I visited with Nazim after his diagnosis and we were shocked at how much weight he had lost in a short time. He looked like a shadow of himself. Yet, his hospitality – and the hospitality of his wife Yasmin – was impeccable. Each time, they welcomed us into their home with chai and a ton of delicious snacks. They were so loving, so amazing, so wonderful – – to us, and to each other. In conversations, Yasmin would constantly call him “my hero” – it was very cute! During our visits, we talked and we prayed. We shared stories about our cancer, our experiences with chemo, our hopes and our fears. We discussed what remedies to try, what food to eat, what treatments to try. I was surprised at how calm he was and how accepting of his fate. There was no “why me?”, no anger, no turning back. It was just quiet acceptance of what the universe had ordained. And his faith was remarkable. His faith that everything would unfold as it should.
Nazim came into our lives many times in the past. When Nagib was in hospital twenty-five years ago, Nazim was right there patiently waiting outside the door until Nagib could see him. Last year, when I came home from hospital – fatigued, sick, unwell — Nazim had a friend deliver 2 dozen roses to my home with wishes for my good health. That’s just the kind of guy he was. Generous to a fault and always putting others first.
And what an elegant dresser! He loved his fancy pocket squares and matching ties. He looked super cool in his button down “Nehru” jacket. My favourite recent memory of Nazim was seeing him dance with his wife just before he was diagnosed with cancer. They were a phenomenal couple – partners and friends – who treated each other with respect and affection.
Recently, I was in a workshop when the question was asked, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” I remember responding to this question with the answer, “Time; I want more time”. When you live on borrowed time and are dealing with an incurable cancer, then time becomes your most valuable commodity. Sometimes I am sad when I see people living life with no purpose, flitting time away, pretending as if time is forever. It isn’t. Today is my birthday. It is also the day that my friend, Nazim, passed away. And I can’t help but be struck by the connection between birth and death.
Nazim left this world with his family and close friends surrounding him. They said 8 hours of constant prayers until God’s light lifted him to heaven above – – what an incredible gift to give to an individual who is transitioning to another realm. And while I feel sadness that the community has lost a magnificent human being, I also celebrate a life well lived. Nazim lived his life to the fullest – a devoted family man, a community leader, a decent human being. He left a wonderful legacy for us all to follow. I know that I will keep his memory alive by making every day, every minute I have matter. Because life is fragile.