On Saturday night, we lost one of the greats. Shayan Afzal Khan, affectionately known to all of us as "Poppy", lost her long and bravely fought battle with cancer. Of the many things we learned from this remarkable lady, whom I am proud to call my mentor and friend, it was to live life with passion. Never back down. Focus on the positive. Encourage and empower those who need it, and recognize that sometimes those who don't seem to need it actually do the most. Fight for what is right, but always with graceful words. Be inclusive. Have a big heart, and if it isn't big, stretch it beyond its comfort zone. Smile, though your heart is breaking. Wear bright colors, they will make you feel better. Dress up! Dance to your heart's content. Read, read, read. Ask the right questions. Ask yourself what YOU can do to help. Don't forget your manners but don't let them get in the way of having fun, either. Be polite. Be brave. Be loving.
A poppy is the symbol of remembrance for veterans. She was a warrior of the best kind, a warrior of thoughts and words - a Poppy to remember, always and forever. She leaves behind her two beautiful warriors, her daughters, who have inherited her grace and strength in spades. She lives on through them, and through Kuch Khaas - the Centre for Arts, Culture and Dialogue, in Islamabad. Your chair may be empty, Poppy, but your spirit fills this space. We have been sitting here for the last two days, soaking up your essence, sharing memories, remembering your perfume, your big water glass full of ice throughout the year, your red lip crayon in the pen holder on your desk, the scrunchie and puzzle ring you would always be fidgeting with... by remembering these small details, by keeping them alive, we get some small comfort. When we start crying, we remind ourselves that if you were here, you'd tell us off and tell us to cheer up, chin up, smile and laugh. This life is too short to be sad.
To the bravest of them all. Here's to you, our warrior.