Life to him was a choo-choo train, a joyride, to which he invited the world to jump on.
It was a happy journey, full of games, fun, and laughter sprinkled with mirth and cheer. When did it start and how did it end?
Too soon my friend, too soon, you “had promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep”. You always defied time, how did it finally catch up with one so young, yes, young. Count not the years.
A child at heart, playing day and night among friends and even strangers, he had much to give and he gave it all. Grateful for his many God-given talents, he wished to display his art, entertain, please and bask in the million smiles of the crowds around him.
As if on a mission sent from heaven to make this world a better place, he did his best. He spread his mirth whenever and wherever he could, through every media available, even from the rooftops. It was all the nourishment he needed to survive.
He met everyone with a smile, a kind word, a helping hand.
How could time put an end to such pleasure and jubilation?
Did he happily join his friends, those old familiar faces?
They are gone: “All, all are gone, the old familiar faces”, diminishing the quality of our lives.
He was unlike all the rest. Bright as the morning sun, warm as the summer rain — I thought he would live forever, like the stars shining up above.
Will you not come again dear friend? Will you not make me smile, laugh, chortle, chuckle and giggle again? Enchantment was your middle name. Can I reach for this bliss again?
How can this heart go on? Could I be shedding tears of sorrow and not of laughter? Are those true tears that I wept upon my pillow while I slept?
Were you tired my friend? You filled your cup to the brim until it overflowed — did you need to rest?
No, not you. You must have raged and raged “against the dying of the light”. One like you cannot “go gentle into that goodnight”.
The body and mind are not always in tune. The body may decay but the mind is alert and the soul alive. I am convinced you live, perhaps elsewhere, but your soul is near.
You played your last prank on that long procession that buried your empty body, in your birthplace, by the shores of Alexandria.
They never buried your soul. Your soul, free at last, is happily wading in the waters of the sea, racing the waves to the sandy shore. The grave is not for one like you.
The only truly dead are those that are forgotten. How can you ever be forgotten! Thinking of you is as haunting and refreshing as the last rose of summer.
Sharing my memories of my life-long friend, Samir Sabri, does me good. I find myself smiling, yet well aware those days, those joys are gone forevermore.
If human life consists of human service, he tops the list. He never turned his back on friend or foe. Critics never bothered him, he aided them as faithfully as he did his friends. We all hunger for love and how well he was aware of that. He gave love freely; he expected little in return.
Why am I using the past tense regarding him? I hate that, for never have I met one more in love with life as he.
I can still hear his voice calling every morning, mimicking a mutual acquaintance, interchanging jokes, repartees, buffoonery and humour.
On his last call he responded to a compliment from a friend: “Tell her, I would rather look like Robert Wagner not Robert Taylor.” And so it went, recalling old movies and stars and funny dialogues. That is one of the many things we had in common and could share with no one else but each other. Have you ever heard of Ma & Pa Kettle? We have, and laughed till we cried.
Thank God for the gift of memory. It is good to remember all this tomfoolery and hoodwinking and shared ideas. It is like a shower of good cheerfulness and life becomes meaningful again.
Making people happy can be compared to some substance creeping in his blood stream. He was present for everyone. He used movies, radio, TV, stage, singing, dancing and conversing to make people happy.
He loved to entertain. In short that was his essence. He was an entertainer. A first-class, versatile, handsome, eloquent, witty entertainer and he did it all with panache.
Children loved him and he loved them back. He would sing and play with my children, whose tears have not stopped flowing, since they heard he was gone. Mingling tears with laughter they recalled the myriad moments of his pranks and antics.
He took four days off his busy schedule to fly to the US to attend my daughter’s wedding. He was sheer delight. He could not turn down my invitation.
He was never boring. He never bored.
With his keen mind and a kind soul he instinctively knew how to please the crowds he could not live without.
It has been said that the only success is to be able to spend your life in your own way.
He was the most successful man I knew. He simply did it his way.
“There are no stars tonight/ But those of memory.”
Hart Crane (1899-1932)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.