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Dayi Jan
His mischievous smile still lights up in my mind

May 29, 2002
The Iranian

Last week a light went out in our home and we have been surrounded with darkness ever since. This flame had been fighting for the last nine months, and last Saturday, his tired body gave in to the winds of destiny. [See: Wake up...]

During his life, my uncle gave us the gift of his love, affection and countless memories. During the nine months he spent in a coma, following his tragic accident, he gave his family the opportunity to dedicate their lives to him by destroying all imaginable boundaries and demonstrating the meaning of love. Now, in his death, he has taught us the immortality of our family's bond and the bitterness of letting go of someone who is a part of us.

My uncle was not famous, rich or powerful and yet his passing scarred so many hearts, that even us, his closest family members were left in awe. When the news of his death came through the telephone line from Iran, my mother, his little sister, was sent into an ocean of pain. Her pain had so many layers and so much depth that it was unbearable to witness. As the days of the week went by, her pain evolved.

There were so many factors that made her brother's death tragic. He left behind two daughters, one old enough to suffer a lifetime of his absence and the other too young to have had the privilege of growing up in his shadow. He left behind two sisters, who did not hesitate to give up their lives and daily comforts in an effort to win back his. He left behind an older brother, who emotionally, financially and physically gave his all and became the very essence of limitless and unconditional love.

However, what made my mother burn with agony was the belief that her brother didn't get to enjoy his life the way he should have. Between teaching at the University of Ferdowsi in Mashad, taking care of his land outside the city, finishing construction on the apartment complex that he was building, there never seemed to be enough time to take a break or to slow down.

When we would spent time with him during our trips to Iran, we would hear of his plans to come to the US for one year of research funded through his University, but life never seemed to slow down long enough for any of that to happen. So much stress, so much frustration and so many delayed plans that would never be realized.

An accomplished man who had so much to look forward to, before three drunken teenagers on a motorcycle would bring his dreams to an end. While it was true that my uncle left many unfinished chapters, it was only after his death that we truly understood his life and his accomplishments.

Dr. Manouchehr Asgari, was born and raised in Mashad, Iran as the third child in a very close-knit family. He pursued his higher education in Europe, resulting in a PhD of Sociology from Belgium. He had both the talent and the opportunity to build his life and career abroad. Instead he chose to return to his country, live a modest life and give back to the youth of Iran.

As his niece, I always recognized the significance that the university and its students had on my uncle. What I never realized, however, was the significance that my uncle had on those students and on that University. It wasn't until we were told of the crowd of 4,000, comprised mainly of students and professors who attended his burial ceremony that we began to understand just exactly who my uncle was and how our loss was also the loss of so many others.

My sister was the one to call from Iran and explain what the ceremony had been like. She told us that although the number of family and friends mourning Dayi Manou's death were significant, it was the students who stole the day. She, herself surprised, told us of men and women who had written poetry that they recited for him. Other students spoke of what their mentor meant to them and vowed to continue in the path he had laid out for them.

As a professor of sociology, my uncle was known to be honest and outspoken. He had a clear vision and strong convictions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the society in which he lived. Being the extremely simple, modest and down to earth man that he was, he reached out to and connected with people from all walks of life and gained their respect and admiration in the process.

When we would hear of his four-hour bi-weekly commute to Neshabur to teach class, we could only see the inconvenience of what he went through. What we failed to see was the fruit of that dedication and passion. This was evident in my sister's description of students who had come to the masjed with torn socks and old clothes and yet shed tears that clearly gave them ownership of this loss. The numbers were endless and the faces unfamiliar, but their grief was unquestionable. It was there loss, just as much as ours.

Only then did we all realize just exactly what my uncle had accomplished in his life and what a difference he had made in the lives of so many of Iran's young minds. It was only then that my mother could breathe freely without the regret that her brother didn't get to enjoy his life, because she had finally realized the source of his enjoyment.

While this outpour of love and support helps to cool down the burning inside our chests, it doesn't extinguish all the pain. There is still so much that continues to haunt me and blocks me from reality. His mischievous smile still lights up in my mind and I can hear his laughter. I still want to sit next to him during lunch and make fun of him when he gets food on his mustache.

I can still hear his footsteps and I can still remember exactly how my arms felt around his shoulders. I remember the last time I saw him and I wish I had held on longer, although in my mind I'm still holding him.

Last week a light went out in our home and we have been surrounded with darkness ever since. In the middle of this darkness there are rays of light from family and friends, offering their support and love. In the middle of this storm there is the calm of knowing that his passing will not be the end of him.

Under the weight of all this pain there is the assurance that he was showered with love and that the unimaginable was done to save him. Now all that is left are pictures, memories, tears and a void; a painful void for those who were fortunate enough to have shared his life with him.

Dayi Jan: I pray that you are at peace, surrounded with love and that you will continue to feel our energy wherever you are. I love you, I miss you and most importantly I will never forget you.

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