His presence is wonderful, his absence is painful

I have been asked to write something about Abdel Rahman al-Abnoudi.
His death has saddened me a great deal, although his wife Nihal Kamal had told me on the phone before he died that he was breathing through a respirator, a device that I hate because many of my beloved ones died like that, even though I know if it may have saved the lives of others. 
I wish Abnoudi could breathe normally again, instead of through that artificial device. Before he died, he used to breathe with a small part of his lungs, yet he still seemed as vibrant and strong as ever.
I was struck by the news of his death. It put me in that exceptional state which only happens when extraordinary people, who are close to me, pass away. I had the same feeling when my father and mother died, or after the death of Yusuf Idris.
I do not cry when I am in that state. My tears freeze. Instead, I feel like I want to go out in the open and walk until I am exhausted, then go back to gaze at the wall. But I know there will come a moment when I will burst out crying.
How can I write about Abnoudi now? Perhaps I should repeat some of what I wrote about him after I visited him in his warm house, for he was too big for me to write something in haste.
• Abnoudi is charming when you speak to him from the heart, and when he speaks to you from the heart. Not only is he a great poet, but also a great researcher. He is a brilliant storyteller. His love sprouts like the morning dew.
• He does not know that I use him as a shield against the crudeness of everyday life. On my mobile phone, I keep the songs of Abdel Halim Hafez, to which he wrote the lyrics. They put me in another world of euphoria and serenity.
• Singing is an exhalation of a long and good breath, unlike the exhalation of pain, the shouts of politics and the cries of horror. It is an exhalation that feeds the spirit. And despite his tired lungs, Abnoudi produced exhalations of beautiful songs for all of us.
• Finally, I must add that he has introduced me to his friends who live around his house, the mango tree, the palm tree and the raspberry tree. 
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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