A Tribute to My Friend, by Yahya Zwita

Yahya Zwita from Libya
Yahya Zwita from Libya

by Sheetal Makhan / AYC

I pride myself on the fact that I share very special relationships with my students that go far beyond textbooks and Grammar.

When Yahya Zwita, from Libya, opened his heart and told me that his friend, Mohamed (aged 20) committed suicide at the beginning of the month, I knew that I had to be there for this young gentleman. Far from home for the first time in a foreign country with family and friends far away, I instinctively took on the role of his big sister.

During one of our conversations, he told me that he wanted to give a presentation / tribute about his friend. I immediately agreed and said I would help him in any way I could.

For his tribute yesterday (Thursday, 27 March) Yahya spoke to a group of about 25 students – all his peers. Voluntarily, he put himself in the spotlight…and spoke. I have always maintained that “Words that come from the heart, enter the heart.” This was exactly what happened yesterday afternoon.

Here is Yahya’s presentation:

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming. This is my first presentation that I’m giving and I would like to tell you about my friend.
His name was Mohamed. He was 20 years old and he had 1 brother and 2 sisters. His father died when he was young. 

As friends, we had a magnificent time together and enjoyed life.

Two weeks ago, my brother called me and told me, “Your friend, Mohamed died.”

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. He died at home at 11 o’clock.

Mohamed lived this life feeling depressed. He had diabetes since he was 4 years old. His family wasn’t very rich. He stopped school when he was young, because he didn’t have money and his mother was very old. Mohamed always worked because he wanted to get money for his mother.

He felt powerless.

When I was in Libya, sometimes I stayed at his house.

He told me “Yahya – you are lucky in this life, because your father is alive. You can go anywhere and you can buy any car or anything you want. Also, you are not sick like me. He said, “I’m not greedy. I don’t want anything from this life. I just want to go to Makka with my mother. This is her dream and I want to make her dream come true. I’ll do anything for my mum, because I don’t have anything else in this life – just her.”

I hope everyone understood this story. I would like to give you some advice. 

As you sit here, your father can do anything for you. Your parents are proud of you, but are you doing everything you can in this life? You have to appreciate what your parents gave you. Like to be here in South Africa to study.

I teared as he spoke so fondly about his friend. An hour later, as I drove home, I stopped at the beach and looked out at the vast ocean before me. My thoughts traveled to my friend from high school, who is at this moment, fighting for her life at a hospital in Jerusalem.

It always intrigues me why people cry after hearing about death. Is it because one is sad that the person will no longer be around? Will the physical body of the late person be missed or what they stood for and the role they play in others’ lives. Do we cry over guilt or regret of not saying certain things to the person who has left us? Is it a matter of “If only…” or “I wish…”?

Death always brings us to a standstill. With our extremely busy lives, we spin around from dawn to dusk, not stopping to acknowledge. To appreciate. To say “thank you“.

Yahya’s message struck a chord with many people who were present.

You’ve reminded us that death is not only for old people,” said Zubeida Harris (Registrar).

Iranian student, Shahin Tajiani shared that he would be calling his parents and sister (who he hasn’t seen in 7 years) after hearing Yahya’s touching story.

Blessings can be found in the darkest situations – even amidst news of death. With my friend lying in hospital now, I have been talking to school friends after many months. The best part about it is that it feels as though no time has passed. This is the beauty of friendship.

This blog is dedicated not only to Yahya and his friend, Mohamed, but to my school friend, Lydia, who is so dearly loved by one and all who knew her.

On another note, I would like to congratulate Yahya on a job very well done. It’s certainly not easy to speak about such a sensitive topic, but he was very brave and gave us all food for thought.

At the end of it all, all that matters is that you live an honest and wholesome life – to the best of your ability.

Yahya is an AY20 student.
Read more about EC Cape Town’s AY program here.

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