It feels like I’m at that age where the loss of family and friends I’ve grown up with is becoming less and less of a rarity. People who have been instrumental, in ways large and small, to how I’ve grown up, what I’ve learnt, what I believe.
This past weekend, we lost one of our closest family friends, a man my family affectionately referred to as Malik Uncle. He was someone my father befriended early on, when we moved to Hong Kong (when I was still very young). His wife was an important influence in our lives, and his three sons became close friends with my brothers and I. We all grew up together, never living more than a few blocks apart until our late teens.
I remember him as a principled man, someone who had a clear value set, a stellar work ethic and a focused set of beliefs that he lived and breathed. He (and everyone around him) knew who he was and what he was all about. There was no pretense.
When I heard the news of his passing, I called my dad, who was, obviously and understandably, upset. We talked about him and what he and his family meant to us, about those old days in Hong Kong. He also told me about the time when he (my father) faced a serious career issue back in the Seventies. It was a difficult time when he wasn’t sure what the future held, having just moved his family several thousand miles. In the midst of these difficulties, it was Malik Uncle who stood firm with us. He was vocal in his support of my father, and made it clear to him that he and his family would stand by us, and that they would be there to support us. Although I was too young to remember, he clearly provided us with the support and strength we needed. (He also encouraged my father as he considered starting his own business, something he ultimately did - something that planted the entrepreneurial seed in my own head.)
I know it’s a normal part of life, something we all must get used to, but it’s still sad to accept. Malik uncle meant a lot to us and we will miss him.
The thing to take away, of course, is the importance of true friends. That one of the sure fire ways to know who these true friends are is to take note of those who stick by you, by their voice and their actions, when times are tough. When things are at their worst and you’re not sure where to turn.
These are the folks to keep and hold close. The ones who deserve your time. The ones you must make an effort to never let go of.