Eternal Rest at Last

By: 
Roberto Vazquez

A Mother’s Worst Fear

Rosa Maldonado clasped her hands, shut her eyes and exclaimed, “Bendito sea Dios,”

Blessed be the Lord, in Spanish.

Hearing the news, a flood of emotion released and she stood still, gently rocking back and forth, repeating,

“Bendito sea Dios, bendito sea Dios.”

In that moment, Rosa Maldonado was every woman, every mother, for Maldonado’s worst fear, like any parent, is losing one of her children.

When her friend and coworker was killed by a hit and run driver, just after 10 p.m., on Christmas Eve last year, as he crossed Atherton walking home from work. His violent death had a profound impact on her.

A native of Cairo, Hady Abrahim, was only 22 at the time and beloved by his co-workers and customers alike. Maldonado recalled Abrahim, who was better known as “Yassin” to his friends and customers.

Maldonado said, “Yassin was so nice and helpful. He’d never get upset, even with customers who were verbally abusive. He was a good kid …” Her voice trailed off and she visibly shuddered several times.

For Maldonado, the news Abrahim’s body made it home to Cairo was a relief, but also a reminder of his tragic death and her own worst fears.

As she spoke and the news sank in, Maldonado smiled and her demeanor brightened, a look of relief evident in her eyes. Wordlessly, her dark eyes said, “Blessed be the Lord, Yassin is home, at last…”

A Best Friend Reflects

Less than 20 feet from Maldonado, Fady Sultan is back at the cash register. After the death of his best friend, he took some days off from work. He and Abrahim were an unlikely pair, one Christian, the other Muslim, but for 10 years they were the closest of friends.

When Abrahim decided he wanted to get his college degree in the United States and fulfill his late mother’s dying wishes, it was Sultan, the Christian, who helped him.

Sultan helped Abrahim find an apartment when he arrived in the United States just two years ago, as well as a cashier job at the same AM/PM Sultan worked at.

Moreover, Sultan’s family accepted Abrahim and Sultan’s father loved Abrahim, “like a son,” according to Sultan’s previous interview.

The first thing he says on this latest visit is,

“They buried him next to his mother.”

Sultan, looking every bit the college student, is a young man finally coming into his own.

In a short span of time, he’s had to come to terms with the complexities of both a painful loss and being unable to accompany his best friend’s body back to Egypt.

 “I couldn’t go due to family and school obligations. I couldn’t just drop everything.”

Sultan has learned, such is life.

Time seems to have begun to heal Sultan, slowly thawing the cold, numbing pain of his best friend’s shocking death.

Like Maldonado, he seems in a much different place mentally. He stated, “I’m starting to feel better, getting myself out of thinking about it so much…” Then he turned away for a moment, as if in thought, and he said, “Yeah, I feel better, because he always missed his mom. It was a good idea to have him buried next to his Mother.”

Gratitude Emerges from Grief

Sultan explained a Muslim’s body required specific rituals be performed, as soon as possible, after death.

According to Islamic faith, it is the collective obligation (fard kifayah) of the Muslim community to ensure the dead are prepared for burial with dignity and respect, including the collective bathing (ghusl), enshrouding of the body (kafan), a funeral prayer (salat al janazah) performed at a mosque (masjid), and the burial (dafn), including body positioning so it lays on the right side, facing Mecca for eternity.

Sultan then took a few moments between customers to express his gratitude.

Sultan, who dreams of a future as a neurosurgeon said, “I would like to thank the surgeons for their hard work.” He added, “I would also like to thank the Egyptian embassy for everything they did. The Egyptian Consulate (Los Angeles) really helped out and I know Yassin’s dad was very grateful to everyone involved.”

Sultan added, “I’d also like to thank the social media, the Beachcomber and the Muslim-American community for your help and shedding some light on what’s going on. It was a great opportunity to express myself and tell the community about Yassin.”

He’s asked what he misses about his friend.

“Everything. Of course, I miss going out with him,” He added, “... or when listening to electronic music.”

Parting Words

The experience has changed him.

Sultan was asked for an update on his life and the hit and run case. His expression tightened and he grew serious.

“The cops came and talked to me … not a very useful talk.” He said he felt “sad, frustrated” by the lack of results.

He grew quiet, then added, “In life you forget there’s this thing called death. You forget about it.”

He continued, “This makes you remember, you never know when it’s gonna happen.”

His message to the Long Beach City Council was, “I think they should do something about it. Put in some more lighting (on Atherton), take it seriously… they should find a solution for people who are speeding.”

As the interview concluded, Sultan shared,”I miss Yassin’s vibe every day.” Then, with resolution in his voice, Fady Sultan declared to the world, “I would like to focus on my degree. I think I still want to be a doctor…”

Then, as if someone from above had corrected him, Sultan said, “I absolutely still want to be a doctor.”

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