In my mind, even though I moved from South Florida in 2005 and have been back intermittently between schools and marriage and jobs, in my mind, I have a community in South Florida.
I didn’t grow up with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents who lived only a walk or quick drive away.
I did grow up with a community of uncles and aunties who were loving, and kind, and good, and welcoming, and celebrated joyfully our achievements even if they didn’t quite understand what they were, and sincerely mourned our losses which they always understood, and fed us so generously even when they struggled that I became so very spoiled it was literally a culture shock as an adult to be in a Bangladeshi space that didn’t do that. You can still catch me judging folks for not putting me in a food coma and for not serving a bazillion dishes because I came over “for tea” even though I definitely don’t have the same skills.
So when I hear news about any of them, I still feel connected.
Mohammed Azam, who I have known as Masud Uncle for as long as I can remember, passed away on Monday morning, August 31st, 2020. He was good and gentle and kind. He could speak and understand my folks’ dialect. For some reason, I thought he was my mom’s cousin. In my mind, he is the kind of person who enjoys watching his friends crack jokes and be loud and boisterous while he quietly smiles. He always offered my mom and dad a helping hand every Friday after jumu’ah selling lunch, counting the money, helping them clean up. He came by with food and coffee and tea when my parents were ill or my family was grieving. He was so excited and proud in the sweetest way about his wife, and his son’s marriage, and he wanted so much to be a good father-in-law to his new Afghan daughter-in-law. I have never ever heard him speak an unkind word about anyone.
He was suffering, he was on a ventilator for weeks, and his is the first COVID-19 related death among my South Florida Bangladeshi community.
I am heartbroken for him, for his family, for my family, for a community that does not grieve well in isolation. And I am enraged. It did not have to be this way.
Our government is killing us. Our selfishness is killing us.