Yesterday, I attended a beautiful memorial ceremony for a good friend of mine who recently passed away.
His name was Iqbal, and he was 66 years old and from Pakistan. He is survived by his wife, Shar, who is a Buddhist from Texas, and 7 kids who live in Denmark, Norway, and Pakistan. Iqbal was a big guy, and quite a wrestler, and had fought battles against India as a soldier in the Pakistani army in the 1960s. He later lived in New York, Vancouver, Canada, and Chicago before coming to Texas.
Iqbal was a compassionate, honest, and funny man. We became friends quickly upon first meeting, both being outsiders, although he looked the part more than I in a predominately white neighborhood. He owned and operated a convenience store next to a coffee house where I worked and across the street from a cafe where I worked later. We shared many great conversations, laughs, quiet watching of the world going by, and smokes on his hookah. We helped each other through many rough work days and trying personal issues.
My friendship with Iqbal, despite our being born of different generations, races, faiths, and sides of the Earth, serves as an outstanding example to me and people I know of how open minded, compassionate people can co-exist peacefully despite their differences.
Iqbal’s mother passed away recently, so he traveled home to Pakistan to pay his respects. While there, he was riding a friend’s horse (something he had not done in many years), but fell off and was injured. While laid up with his injury, he fell ill, and a few days later, passed away during the night. Iqbal was a very progressive and open-minded Muslim, but was buried on the day he died in Pakistan, in accordance with the traditions of Islam.
Iqbal’s memorial was performed in a Buddhist style, although there were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Atheists in attendance. It was a wonderful gathering of multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-national love, peace, and happiness, not so much to mourn a death but to celebrate a life, which is what life is supposed to be about.
I would guess that Iqbal is watching the world with concern, curiosity, and insight from wherever he is now, and is having a good laugh with friends.