My father, Ghazi Abdulrahman Algosaibi – poet, technocrat, diplomat, author, novelist, Arab icon – died peacefully on Sunday the 15th of August at 10:30 am in King Faisal Specialist Hospital, in Riyadh.
He was surrounded by his wife, his four children, and one grandchild. Of course a blog post like this cannot do my father justice – a thousand blog posts probably could not do that. This post is more about me expressing myself, and maybe trying to heal some of the pain and grief, by writing about it.
I’ve never known such intense emotional pain. I did not know it was possible to feel so much grief. The pain is so intense it manifests itself physically. More than one friend, whose father passed away, told me that my father had told them that Freud said that a man does not become a man until his father died. They told me how much of an impact that had on them.
I wish I had never become a man.
I always thought I’d have my father around for a long time. I was looking forward to spending more time with him in his retirement. Things don’t always end up the way you want them to.
Still, I’m lucky and thankful to have had a father like him. He really was the best of men. God rest his soul. What will I do without him? I don’t want to be a man. Not so soon. I still had so much to learn from him. God rest his soul.
My father had told me more than once that he wanted to be buried where he died, and that he wanted to be buried right away. So when he passed we made the arrangements immediately. He was buried right after the Asr (afternoon) prayer on the same day.
The prayer took place in the Imam Turki Mosque. HRH Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz, Deputy governor of Riyadh, graciously attended the prayer. After Salat Almayyet (Prayer For The Deceased) I was practically mobbed, with people giving me their condolences. By then the word had spread and I guess half of Saudi had heard the news. It was already on the major news channels.
I must have been greeted by several hundred people. I stood there for about 20 minutes receiving condolences. By the time it was done everyone had already gone to the graveyard. I didn’t even have a car to take me there. I eventually found Obaid, my father’s old driver, and was kindly joined by man who recognised me and offered his help.
On the way there I called my brothers asking them where they were, and they told me they were in the graveyard waiting for me. The crowd there was getting restless. They included several VIP’s and some of my father’s friends. I told my brother Faris not to burry my father until I arrived! And God bless him for insisting to wait for me, as everyone there wanted to get on with it. He put up with some intense pressure. People were fasting and it was very hot!
I arrived just in time as they were just about to take the body out of the ambulance to be buried. My brothers and I (along with about a dozen well-intentioned volunteers) carried the body to the grave, where I jumped in and laid the body down gently. This time 3 other people were in the grave with me. After we buried his body, the family members formed a line and again we received condolences from everyone who attended.
That same evening we flew to Bahrain, and started the Azza (condolence reception) the next morning.
Shortly after my father passed we called some close family members, and started sending out SMS’s. And from there the news spread like wildfire. The calls started to come in almost immediately. One of the things that took us by surprise was how aggressive the media was in trying to get quotes and comments from us. It was really shameful.
I received a call from an editor of a Saudi newspaper asking for a quote. And saying that he wanted to send a photographer to my father’s house and take some photos. He wanted to take photos of my father’s office and library as well as other parts of the house, and he asked if a driver could meet us there. We hadn’t even buried him yet!
At the mosque there must have been a dozen photographers there, and one or two film crews. My mother and sister attended the prayer in the women’s section, and they were jumped by a woman from a newspaper asking for a comment. It really was disgusting, shameful behaviour really.
They both declined, too grieved to even talk to anyone. The woman tried again several times, calling my mother on her mobile. It really was too much.
The calls asking for comments and quotes have not stopped since. I didn’t know the Saudi press was so obtrusive. I guess in a way it’s understandable, as this is the story of the year, and my father really was popular. I guess in a way we should be thankful that we are not in the West. Because in the West when a big celebrity dies the media stand at your front door, follow you around and have a helicopter hovering around all the time. I guess it’s all relative. Still, we cannot help but feel that our privacy has been invaded.
An outpouring of emotions
On another note, my family and I would like to thank all the well-wishers who either came to the Azza, called, sent us letters, emails, Tweets, telexes, Facebook messages etc. We are very touched by the outpouring of emotions. I noticed that over a dozen or so people changed their Facebook profile photo to that of my father.
I lost count, but I’d say maybe one out of four or five people (of the thousands that came) told me that my father helped them in one way or another. I received a call from someone who was crying. He said “Suhail you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, and I never met your father, but he was a great man and a great loss to our country.” The poor man could not hold back his tears. I ended up trying to console him.
My family would also like to thank the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud for calling. It was so kind and considerate of him. He had such nice things to say about my father. He also advised me and my siblings to stay strong and united, and to not let the devil come between us. He reiterated this when my brother’s and I went to see him a few days ago.
I’d also like to thank HM King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa for taking the time to come to give his condolences. A gesture my mother, siblings and I will never forget as long as we live. Special thanks also go to HRH The Crown Prince and HRH The Prime Minister, who also attended the Azza in Bahrain. Words cannot describe how thankful and appreciative we are.
Most of all, I’d like to thank my father’s fans and supporters, who came in their thousands. There are no words that can describe how deeply touched we are by all the support. I even heard that already seven people have gone to Umra in my father’s name. God bless you all.
I miss my father terribly.
I’ll try to be worthy of his name.