On the afternoon of 1st January this year I got one of those emails you hope you’ll never get, with the succinct title ‘sad news’. I took a deep breath and opened it. It was from Lisa, the partner of Mo, a friend of mine, saying that they’d been partying like everyone else on New Year’s Eve, and when they got home, Mo sat down in the kitchen and asked for a drink of water. As Lisa turned to the fridge, Mo’s heart gave out and he keeled over. Gone. Departed.
As I scrolled through the hundreds of names that the email had been sent to, and looked at the oh-so-poignant attached photos of Mo goofing it up a few hours before he died, dancing and wearing some dumb hat and false moustache, I realized how many people he meant so much to, and the grief kicked in. How could someone having so much fun and making others happy go so quickly, like he’d been snatched when we weren’t looking?
Then as the stab of the initial shock subsided, I began to think differently. Mo may have gone way before his time (only 61), but he went at the perfect moment - after a fun night out with friends, at the end of a rewarding year and with no expectations of the new one yet formed. How neat.
By his own definition, Mo Tejani was a global refugee, one of a growing clan on this planet. Born in Uganda into an Indian family, he was kicked out by Idi Amin and began a life of wandering from country to country, mostly teaching English and working for aid organizations. Since he moved to Chiang Mai several years ago, he had got into writing, and we’d enjoyed many hours chatting about weird places we had been and about his or my next great travel book. If you want to know more about Mo, read his ‘A Chameleon’s Tale’, a largely autobiographical book that is available on amazon.com.
A few days later I attended his cremation - a simple affair at which members of his family and friends read out eulogies before the big burn. All of them mentioned his obsession with living life to the full and his compassion for all living things, and the tears trickled down my cheeks. Then we walked up in file to offer a flower and to hover for a moment over the open coffin before it was consigned to the furnace.
We’re all going to go one day, and most of us won’t choose the way we go, but if anyone up there is listening - I wanna go like Mo.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.