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I Miss You, My Brother

At the end of the road I see you, standing tall. Why are you fading?

From We Are Not Numbers

Gaza Strip

Mohammed and Mahmoud. Photo provided by Mahmoud Alyuazjji

Before I sleep, I have this image of your body under the rubble.  Then I pick up my phone and go to our photos.

Today, I ate ice cream. It’s been a long time since I did. I know you’re in a better place, but I wanted you here with me. I wanted to buy you the chocolate flavour that you liked; it would be my treat.

When coming from my exchange program in the United States, I wanted to bring you that Barcelona T-shirt you liked, and heavy winter gloves because your hands are always cold in the winter.

I’m trying to heal, my friend. I go for long runs. At the end of the road, I see you, standing tall. You don’t seem happy though. You’re making that face you used when complaining about your unhappy times.

Why are you fading? I’m coming. I’m running faster. I can hear your “Jadah ya Hoda  —  you’re a strong and great person, Hoda.” You always told me this.

Before I sleep, I have this image of your body under the rubble. It flashes into my mind and makes my heart sink. Then I pick up my phone and go to our photos. I look at you carrying the watermelon on the beach and smiling, in hopes it will wipe out the cruel image of your cold body buried under the rubble. But my chest is so tight. I am angry. I want to get on top of this world and scream loudly — loud enough for the whole world to hear me. I want to burst their ears. My scream would echo pain and draw a rainbow of blood.

Mohammed, did you die while holding your mom? Your mom used to cook for us and insisted that we eat. Or in your dad’s arms? The last time we had a barbecue together, he taught me how to do it professionally and called you to take a picture of me doing it.

Last week I told my brother, Ahmed, about you. Ahmed mostly doesn’t cry, but I heard him sniffing down the phone. My mom cried, too. She remembers that you loved her mahashi. My whole family loved you, even my cat, Bsbs. You were our brother.

You were that friend who was always one call away, always helping and giving. A month before I left Gaza, you and the two Khalids would come to my house every day. I used to tell you jokingly to go home. “I’m travelling, not dying.” But you insisted on coming, and we would sit, talk, and joke while drinking tea and eating bzr (sunflower seeds).

When I video-called you online, you said, “Hoda, it doesn’t feel the same without you.” I said it was only a couple of months till I’d be back. I said we would go for shawarma and eat luqaimat. I never thought I would not see you again!

You made a special video before I left to tell me how much you would miss me. I’m looking at each image, tears running down my cheeks, heart burning, hands shaking as I write these words. I miss you, my brother.

I never thought I’d lose you like this. I’ll never forget that you and your family were killed by an Israeli airstrike while you were sheltering under your grandfather’s roof.

I want to reach you. I want to see you, my friend, so bad. I want to give you one last hug.

I’ll miss you calling me for a walk just to talk and talk. I never thought twice before telling you anything, and I am sure you didn’t either. I’ll miss you in my classes. I remember the countless times we laughed, and nobody understood why but you and me. I’ll miss you showing me your wonderful translations. You were so talented and hard working. I’ll never forget your smile, dreams, voice, positivity, generosity, and kindness. You and your family were a second family to me.

I love you so much habibi Mohammed Zaher Hammo. I love you, and I’ll remember you until the day I die.

Allah Yerhamko – may you rest in peace.


Watch this essay in video. Read other tributes to Mohammed Zaher Hammo.


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