My Uncle and Covid

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I know you all don’t subscribe to this newsletter for personal stuff like this, but I wanted to share this news with you in the hopes that you won’t forget that for much of the world, the pandemic isn’t over and won’t be for some time.

My uncle Samad, my mom's twin brother, died yesterday at 74 in Iran due to Covid-19. He leaves behind his incredible wife and his two amazing sons. 

My uncle also lived with MS for two decades. MS took him away from something many of the men in my mom's side of the family enjoyed: mountain climbing, but it never took him away from work. He was still going into his office three weeks ago.

My uncle managed to avoid contracting Covid, which has ravaged Iran, for the first 15 months of the pandemic but got it in the last wave which hit Iran in late April. 

Iran's vaccination rate is less than 2% compared to nearly 40% in the US.

I don't lie about who people were after they have passed on, I'll just not say anything about them at all. I say that to share with you that my uncle was a remarkable man. Kind, generous, loving, and determined. 

My mother insisted on taking my sister and me to Iran on a regular basis during our summer breaks. It's something that I am so grateful for because it allowed me to spend lots of time with my uncle and the rest of my family.

Our routine in Iran was always the same. Upon landing, he would always pick us up and we would stay with him, my aunt, and my grandmother who lived with them.

Every time we would visit he would put in so much effort to take care of us for 40 days even though he had his own busy life to attend to.

My sister said to me yesterday "he was really good to us even when we didn't deserve it." He was particularly patient with his hyperactive American nephew with untreated ADHD who stormed into his life like a hurricane for 40 days during the summers.

I've been waking up obscenely early since I was a kid and I'd keep the same schedule in Iran. It gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my uncle.

My uncle would often find me in his living room at 5 or 530 AM and every time we'd go through the same routine...he would whisper that I was crazy while smiling and shaking his head.

He would take out his jump rope every morning and jump rope at the speed and intensity of a boxer training for a fight. He would go so fast I could sit close and feel like I was sitting next to a fan.

He looked so determined and would go for so long during these sessions that I was always determined to make him break his concentration and laugh. I would try the same with my aunt when she would pray.

The face my uncle would make when I would try to get him to laugh will be how I remember him. He refused to give in but he also desperately wanted to laugh. I could see his bottom lip quiver and sometimes his eyes water as he kept the laughter in.

One morning during my last trip to Iran I grabbed my grandmother's hijab and put it over my head and strolled in casually as he jumped rope. I really thought making this extra effort would lead him to break. I asked him if he wanted tea as if nothing was different and I'll never forget his face turning red as he tried to hold in the laughter.

My uncle was the first person we saw when we landed in Iran and the last person we would see when he would drop us off at the airport 40 days later. Leaving Iran was always an emotional experience because you could never be sure if you would ever return.

I certainly didn't know that the last time I saw my uncle would be the last time I would ever see him again. But I'm glad that I assumed it could be and said goodbye in a way that didn't leave any doubt about how much I loved him.

My mom's side of the family is filled with righteous people, some of whom gave up their lives fighting for what they believed in. And when you have those kind of people in your family in Iran it means you will face unspeakable heartbreak over and over again.

Despite everything my uncle faced, from a brother who took his life to avoid being tortured to other family members who were imprisoned, tortured, and executed to his MS diagnosis, he never gave up and never lost his generosity of spirit.

His memory will always be a blessing and an inspiration.