Sometimes the deepest connections we feel aren’t physical. The most apparent manifestation of this phenomenon is the relationship that some share with God, each in our individual way. It transcends the realm of our senses because we cannot physically see, hear, smell, nor touch God; but the connection we feel by means of whichever faith we have chosen is nevertheless powerful. Although we cannot perceive God with our sight, we can feel His presence within our hearts. Faith is after all intangible; yet, the feeling of believing in something (whether that “something” is a larger system like education or justice, relationships, or one’s accomplishments) is universal to humankind. So when Brandon Stanton shared the inspirational story of Omar Samra on Humans of New York, I had to calm the subtle vibrations of grief within me and instead expand my consciousness to understand how sometimes the most meaningful and lasting relationships transcend time and space.
Samra is best known for his public adventures around the world and he currently holds the record as the first Egyptian to climb the tallest mountain on every continent. He’s braved harsh climates and traveled to the most remote locations with his company, Wild Guanabana, in a mission to provide life-changing journeys for people across the globe. What most people don’t know, however, is that he does not consider traversing through unforgiving terrain and bitter temperatures his greatest struggle. He is a man who has conquered great heights and he is among the few who have literally been on top of the world; yet, the loss of his closest companion has often pulled him into the darkest depths of his mind — which is why he regards the loss of his beloved wife, Marwa Fayed, as by far his most difficult and life-long challenge.
The love Samra felt for his wife is palpable in each of the five photo posts which document his greatest struggle. His sincerity and genuine concern for the loss of his other half resonated in the depths of a thousand different souls. Readers of HONY learned that Mr. Samra still wears his wedding ring and remains faithful to his wife although she passed almost two years prior, after giving birth to their daughter. His resilience is a testament to others struggling with the loss of a loved one — especially for those who feel like giving up hope because they can no longer make sense of one life that remains without the other. Although it is extremely painful to discuss the details of his despair, Mr. Samra shares the delicate memories he has of his precious wife Marwa. In so doing, he extends a helping hand to those who may have seriously been contemplating suicide or battling depression by showing them the best way to keep a loved one alive is to exchange stories; thereby offering a chance at healing for both the listener and the one sharing the story.
After viewing this short video of Marwa passionately calling on Arab women to break boundaries, I simultaneously understood why Samra remains so captivated by her beautiful soul and realized how serious the loss of such an inspirational person like her is. Although I was unfamiliar with the tragic circumstances of her passing before, I believe it now serves as a gift of hope and encouragement for so many who remain trapped in the depths of grief. The loss of a loved one can send the soul that’s left behind into debilitating despair and confusion, but one of the best ways in which to honor the relationship with that person is to consider what they would have wanted. As Samra shared in a post on his social media account:
“I asked myself what would she have wanted. I realized while I could no longer touch her, I could still talk to her and do my favorite thing in the world, make her happy and proud of me. So I got stronger for her and I became determined to turn this tragedy into something positive.”
So let’s honor Marwa’s abundantly compassionate soul by taking a look at the words she left behind as inspiration for many women. In these two minutes and 49 seconds, Marwa teaches us that women should not limit themselves to the societal roles placed upon them because they are capable of achieving their wildest dreams; regardless of how crazy these aspirations may seem to others. Essentially, Marwa hopes that women will not to allow cultural pressures to dictate what we want to accomplish. She uses herself as an example because climbing a mountain to her initially seemed impossible; which is exactly why she challenged herself to attain the most seemingly crazy goal she could fathom. In fact, she asserts that “crazy” did not translate into something negative for her, but it was instead a unique spark to be kindled and embraced. She explains how others further ignited that spark within her by doubting her and their lack of encouragement in her personal mission only motivated her to pursue it further. Even from such negativity, Marwa extracted hope and allowed that to serve as her purpose to prove to herself that she could attain her dream.
So if society and even those in our personal circles express doubt in the possibility of achieving our dreams, then we are not to worry, because victory will taste even sweeter when we finally do reach that goal. While she was successful in her nine-year corporate career, she did not feel personally moved by the work in her field. Marwa explains how she found her greatest source of happiness by following her passions and encourages fellow women to do the same. Not only did she derive a personal sense of accomplishment and self-worth from being a part of Wild Guanaba, but she also found her best friend, soul mate, and husband all in one person: Omar Samra, the founder of the company, which as mentioned earlier takes people on life-changing journeys; inadvertently it took Marwa and Omar on a life-changing journey in finding one another.
This part of Marwa’s message echoes with me the most because as women, we are often told to sacrifice our dreams and passions for the sake of settling down. Often, we exchange a career path we want to pursue because we are afraid of losing a potential proposal. Many of us are encouraged to pursue education as young women but when the age of 25…28…dare I say, 30 rears its stress-inducing head, we are suddenly advised to drop everything we had invested in so we can get married. In most cases (not all) women are asked to press pause on pursuing higher education or certain careers in an effort to shift focus to their new role as a wife. As a mental health professional, I’ve heard stories from women of various faiths and backgrounds express their regret over an inability to pursue a higher degree or take a certain job in another state due to their marital/relationship status.
Conversely, I also know other women who are very happy in their married lives because it was their choice, not a demand or expectation placed upon them. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get married; it is a station many women (myself included) hope they are blessed to reach one day. However, it becomes concerning when a woman’s potential is judged exclusively by her credentials as a potential wife and that is why Marwa’s words are a source of encouragement and solace for those women who are not yet married. What is important to consider though is that we can achieve great heights if we foster the potential we have each been gifted with. Whether that’s literally climbing mountains, or as Marwa eloquently suggests, we can use that as a metaphor to achieve that which we each are striving for.
Thank you Omar Samra, for welcoming others to see the treasured memories you and Marwa share. Thank you for dedicating yourself to honoring her beautiful soul by doing that which would bring her happiness. Your love for Marwa and her love for you inspires hope in the lives of so many who do not know how kind love truly is meant to be. She will forever remain the finishing piece in the tapestry of your soul and her words have inspired me personally – so she continues to connect you to others in need of hope despite the fact she is not physically present and that is the unique, everlasting beauty of her soul.
Image from Marwa Fayed’s Toy Run