I haven’t seen Salim in years–actually, about 28 years to be exact. In 1986 I took the”first thing smoking” out of my south-of-Boston home and headed for the San Francisco Bay Area. Although, I returned occasionally to visit, I don’t think I ever saw Salim. This time and space differential has not seemed to dim my impressions of Brother Salim or the starkness of the memories that surround the turbulent and transitional times that we were enveloped in during the mid eighties.
I recently reconnected with a dear friend from those times, Linda Weaver. It is Linda who was the doorway to my interaction with Brother Salim. Linda and I met as students in an advanced placement undergraduate program. We were both single parents with two sons and facing the fears, stress and challenges of managing life alone as single parents. We immediately connected and became ‘fast’ and life-long friends.
At the time I met Salim he was seeing Linda’s sister Barbara. But actually, ‘seeing’ is a misnomer, because it seems to me that Salim married, adopted and befriended entire families and clans. My sons and I were honored to be among that extended clan. As Linda and our colleagues pursued our studies and educational practica, our children grew up around us and bonded as young cohorts with what they probably thought were insane and eccentric parent-mother-women that were intent on improving their lives and taking their kids along for the hectic ride. In all of this mania, Brother Salim managed to present a credible, responsible and available role model for my sons, Linda’s sons and Barbara’s son and goodness knows how many countless others.
My oldest son, Waleed, was recounting to me earlier today how Salim one-time gave him a Afghan style Muslim hat. My sons, who were being raised Muslim were struggling with their Muslim identity in a world of pre-teen hip-hop and fashion. Waleed told me that he wouldn’t have worn that hat at the time. I have a suspicion that Brother Salim probably knew this, but was probably encouraging my son towards the identity that he now embraces openly and wholeheartedly.
I also remember Brother Salim brokering and refereeing the fights that broke out between the boys with a finesse and firmness that none of us mothers could summon. After years of being out of the Boston and living in California; I finally ended up in Houston after a number of years of working in education on the African Continent. My time as a member of Linda’s clan was never forgotten. I finally after at least a decade looked Linda up and contacted her.
Linda and I now engage in hours of catch-up and renewal conversations by phone. Salim’s name has come up on a number of occasions. I knew that he was unwell and aging like the rest of us. Linda always speaks of Salim affectionately and continues to claim him as a brother-in-law. I see Salim as one of the incredible humans that I have been honored to meet and interact with. He was and is one of those special gifts of God to be treasured and remembered. I ask for blessings and forgiveness for his soul and and welcome the prospect of our possible meeting as new beings in the promised life to follow.