Three summers ago, I lost my cousins Yahya and Aydruce less than a month apart. Yahye died in a car crash that everyone else present for survived. Aydruce died of a heart attack. Both deaths feel like they weren’t supposed to happen like a wrong number was dialed.
My extended family is fractured and estranged, so seeing many of them on the day of Aydruce’s janazah at a suburban masjid in Minnesota, was surreal. I was confused to learn it was a joint janazah, too, accommodating another young man who had recently died due to street violence. A couple of days after the funeral, someone who hadn’t known that information, that there was more than one Somali young man being honored that day, told people that I was lying about having lost someone just because the someone I had lost wasn’t their someone. In that moment, I realized there are people who truly can’t see the world beyond themselves, who are most comfortable observing from a hampered standpoint, safely distanced from reality, clinging to unsubstantiated theories like a mad man in an apocalyptic bunker would.
I didn’t get to say goodbye to Yahya, who passed away in Ohio. He was over a decade younger than me, closer to my little brother Hussein’s age, so he wasn’t in the crew of cousins I grew up with. Still, his death flattened and crushed me. I never knew that I could love someone I barely knew, who barely knew me—but how could I not? Yahya was our baby. A faultless, untainted-by-the-world, sweet baby. He wasn’t responsible for any of the hurt the adults in our family had caused each other. He and the younger cousins, my brother included, inherited a world with a different set of expectations and norms than my own, so part of my grief for Yahya was mourning innocence—an innocence God unceremoniously cut short that summer.
In these sort of big, dizzyingly complicated families, every betrayal is concatenated, so we’re all—even the unalloyed among us—implicated in each other’s pain, fortifying our wounds into intergenerational trauma. It’s a miracle, then, that I had no bad memories or negative associations with my brothers.
I try to live every day within the energy contained in the miracle that was knowing Yahya and Aydruce briefly on earth. It’s pure. (Coincidentally, that’s what my name—Safy—means in Arabic.) Pure, undiluted love and acceptance is the vibration—“vibe”—I want to foster on our collective last days on the planet because it’s most in tune with nature. Through love, we can see each other legibly and clearly, as God intended, at the end of the world. 💗