Dear Ali

May 01, 2017

When I heard the news about Ali, I was dumbstruck. I didn’t know how to feel. I was at a loss for words.

Ali, on the other hand, was so eloquent. He had me in tears with just a few words at Sarah’s wedding. He truly had a gift. And now, I will try and share some of my own words, as I say goodbye.

Dear Ali,

You were my older brother. One of my best friends. You basically grew up at 24 Hidden Brook Dr. And although we antagonized each other and we had many MANY fights, I know how much you loved us. And I want you to know how much we loved you too.

Ali, we first bonded over nearly drowning in a canoe. It seemed like from that instant, you stayed at my house that night and never left. I will never forget the seemingly endless sleepovers during the summer. Filled with Nintendo 64, Dragon Ball Z, Mets baseball, Grim Fandango, RPG Maker, computers, you name it. We would spend nights watching movies till the early morning and arguing philosophy, history, politics.... You taught me so much. I will always cherish those days.

Ali, I am so glad we met last week. I was proud of you for getting your life in order. You were killing it at a new job and still determined as ever to be a success. It’s like we picked up from where we left off. You just showed up at our house and it was just comfortable. I hope you know that you were always welcome, even if sometimes we said it begrudgingly.

Ali, you lived a tough life. And I will never be able to understand what you went though. I tried to help you out, but you were stubborn. Just like me. We would always butt heads and our rocky relationship took a toll on me over the years, so I distanced myself. And I will always regret this. I still think about how life would have been so different if your dad had not passed away. We probably would have built a company together, you were so intelligent.

Saleem said this to me about you, recently: “At his core, he was such a sweet heart.” And there is no better way I can describe you. You were such a different person around us. You would light up like the fucking sun when you came to visit. And now that light is gone.

I will miss you so much. My brother.

I just wanted to include a letter that Najam had sent to me after the funeral, as well. I hope he forgives me for sharing this.

Hey Sohail,

Glad I got to see you, though I wish it had been for a happier occasion. Not sure why I'm writing this email, but I just got back to Scranton and felt compelled to write it before I go to bed.

Hearing your words tonight was very moving. And, obviously, the connection you and Ali shared was far deeper than anything I shared with him, so the following probably doesn't even have to be said, but he was as lucky to have you in his life as you were to have him in your life. I hung out with him several times after you guys had had that falling out and things were weird between the two of you for a while, and even then, he spoke of you with nothing but love, admitted that he'd made some mistakes and that you would always be his brother, no matter what. I'm glad you got to see him again so recently.

And it's also true what you said, that he was a giant sweetheart. He never hurt anyone, really, except himself. God, did he hurt himself in so many ways. He suffered more than anybody so sweet should ever have to. But at least he wasn't alone.

I guess there are no guarantees in life, no guarantee that any of us will be around as long as we think or hope we will. But there is also no guarantee that any of us will ever form a genuine, deep bond with another person, or that we will ever meet someone who, despite ups and downs, ultimately enriches our lives or fills us with compassion or makes us really laugh. There's no guarantee that we will find someone we can call a "brother." But you guys did, and I think that's all any of us can really hope for. It's not fair that it was cut short, but at least we were lucky enough to have known him. I guess the same sentiment as "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," etc etc, only with respect to friendship/brotherhood.

It finally sank in for me tonight. However, it also gave me some peace and closure. I thought of Ali throughout the drive back to Scranton, but for the first time since Tuesday, thinking of him didn't make me sad, it made me happy. And that's what I'd like, from now on--for his memory to make me happy, not sad. It is beyond terrible that he's gone, but I don't want to be sad that he's gone. I want to be happy that I was lucky enough to have known him.

On a different note, I'm not sure how I feel about the whole Islamic funeral, prayer, etc. for him, haha. But then, well, funerals aren't really for the deceased. I mean, they're about the deceased, but they're really for the living. If it helps his family and the community feel better, then cool.

Anyway, glad all of us were able to get together for it. Hope all this helped you find some peace, too, even if life will never be the same. Take care, man, and keep in touch.

Najam

Goodbye Ali.