Write about someone you miss.
Before my friend Hani died of leukemia, he was still fighting at Providence St. John in Burbank and I went to see him in ICU.
“If it’s good enough for Walt Disney, it’s good enough for me,”referring to the fact that Disney had died in that hospital as well.
“You’ll get out of here, Hani," I said. "Don’t worry.”
Hani wagged his finger at me in his classic Hani way. “All things pass, Bridge. All things pass.”
Hani died a month later and he begged to be let go even sooner. Hani knew the truth before I could accept it. It was his time to pass. He told me he had seen the world. He had smoked cigarettes in cafés in France. He had debated politics in Cairo. He had worked on movies and created brilliant art. He had a son. Hani had chosen cigarettes and rich food and the decadence of life's pleasures over longevity and he was okay with that choice.
But I still miss him every day. When I was just a young pup living in Los Angeles in 2001, I would go to his place in Burbank every Wednesday and we would talk about life, art, politics, love. He would make me Turkish coffee and roll cigarettes. His artwork was all over his apartment. Sketches, watercolors, pastels. The man was brilliant, obstinate, passionate. Prolific.
Hani loved the fine things in life and that included food. We would go to his Lebanese friend’s French restaurant and dine like kings. Hani would drive the waitress crazy and we would scold him for being too hard on her—but the man had high standards for everyone in his orbit. I still think of the baklava his friend had shipped from home that he gave us for dessert after a perfect French meal. It melted in your mouth. Divine.
He loved his Egyptian roots and would educate me about the mythology. His favorite Egyptian goddess was Nut, the goddess of the sky, stars, cosmos, mothers, astronomy, and the universe. He would always pray to Nut for a parking spot and it was truly incredible how that man always, always found a spot when he needed one. He would chuckle knowingly and say, “That’s Nut.”
We always thought it was hilarious that Nut, this incredibly busy woman running the universe and the cosmos, could take time out of her day to help arrange things so Hani always found a parking spot. She was his personal valet—but I think it was more about demonstrating her existence to us that mattered to him.
As I sat there with his son, watching Hani’s breathing slow down to five or six breaths an hour, I thought about how much I’d learned from him. How to live life and enjoy its earthly pleasures. The importance of education. The difference between knowing something and understanding it.
He was blunt about what it takes to be a creative and work in a creative field. And he was a pain-in-the-ass with standards, so he never made as much money as his friends who were willing to play the game, despite being just as talented, if not more. He had hilarious insights about Hollywood. “It’s a town of rats fighting over one small piece of cheese.”
When I traveled to Egypt with a wealthy man I was dating, Hani pulled me aside, looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Get out before you become accustomed to the lifestyle and you can’t. This man is rich because he knows how to get what he wants. He’s a very subtle bully.”
He was right.
As I sat beside him in the ICU, he was surrendering and I knew it, but didn’t want to believe it. Hani was a warrior. A fighter. There was no way leukemia could take him.
“I got greedy, Bridget,” he said. “I was in the clear but I just had to have that one more chemo session and that’s what killed me.”
His lungs were filling with fluid. The doctors explained that although his bloodwork was good, his kidneys were failing. Chemo will wear you down and cancer will look for your weakest link. In Hani’s case, after decades of chain smoking, it was his lungs. We all begged him to quit smoking but he loved it so much. He would laugh when we would suggest it would kill him.
We were right.
“What will I do without you, Hani?” He had been like a father to me in so many ways. A mentor and guide through life. “You will go on,” he answered stoically.
“You will keep creating and going,” he said. “The stream of life only flows in one direction and we will meet again in the astral soup.” He took a drag off his cigarette and laughed until he coughed.
Hani’s laugh would fill a room, it came from his Buddha belly. He always wore a vest with dozens of pockets in which he kept pocket knives, pastels, his watch. I can still hear his laugh, I could hear it when he was leaving his body as I sat in the hospital room waiting for him to pass. His spirit filled up the room, atoms bouncing and expanding. Returning to the creative source.
His girlfriend told me Hani used to say, “That Bridget, she’s one tough cookie.” When I came home after his death, a friend had dropped a card off. It read: “You’re one tough cookie.”
I took his son to Joshua Tree the day his father died just so we could decompress after the five traumatic days we had just spent in the hospital while he died.
As I laid on the chaise by the pool and exhaled what felt like my first breath in days and looked up at the sky Goddess, there was a small cloud. Just one. With a rainbow that looked like a smile.
He is everywhere now, smiling down on me.
He was only 67. So young. I miss him constantly. But he’s in the sky or the stars or valeting for Nut, today, when he helped me find a parking spot.