This is neither an obituary nor a eulogy.

This is an apology.

This is to say sorry for the disgraceful flood of impotent rage that will inundate our timelines in the coming days; the tweets and status updates that will desperately commemorate the memories of a friend who was more than just a friend. This is to say sorry for not getting in touch often; for letting my hesitation override my potential; for laughing with embarrassment when you told me – with such honest conviction – “this country needs us, Mehreen.” This is an apology for doubting myself and by virtue of our association, the dreams we shared for our country.

This is to say sorry on behalf of an unfortunately sizeable demographic that still thinks you are – as you are being buried – some execrable agent of country XYZ because you refused to cast a blind eye to state-sanctioned inhumanity. Had you been alive, you would have laughed, but think about it: Someone out there is conjuring hyper-nationalist memes against you on the internet, for the sin of listening to Mama Qadeer. The time on said population’s hands is apparently endless. So confident of their abilities are these omnipresent na-maloom afraad that they require internet warriors and ridiculous memes to uphold their legitimacy. This is to say sorry for that depressing absence of accountability; that infinite void of self-reflection.

It feels obscene to wax poetic about resilience and hope; a fictional narrative about how one goes on (it is never asked where, and it is never considered that a human’s hope is not inexhaustible). But there are students in our country who are feeling emboldened to speak louder against that which wounds the Mama Qadeers of our land. You leave a ray of light in these students. There are scholars and activists, ordinary men and women, who refuse to hold their tongues and sit on their hands anymore. You leave a ray of light in these hearts. It was in February 2014 that you said something very important about activism. You said, activism is not something grand; its power and legacy remains in its modesty. Little gestures, little stands, little steps constitute advancements toward larger goals. It takes one day, one word at a time.

And it hurts to say goodbye from so far away. I sit here in Brooklyn, six days shy of it turning a year since I moved to New York City, and I pen this note overcome with a mixture of nauseating thoughts. Had you been alive, you would have understood. A fraction of my heart feels a palpitating sense of doom; I think of Mama Qadeer, I think of the Baloch women and children who haunt our conscience, holding photographs of their missing husbands, fathers and sons next to their chests; I think of the students in Lahore who wished to shed light on the plight of Balochistan but were warned against it; I think of how wretched it is to stand there on the roads in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad vigil after vigil after vigil, quietly realizing that these gatherings are perhaps inconsequential, that our desperate conditions necessitate more desperate measures. Another part of me remembers the nearly 600 Baloch citizens who have committed suicide in sheer despair from 2010 to 2013. Or the 800 bodies found in Balochistan in the past three and a half years. Or the thousands who tirelessly search for their missing loved ones.

This is an apology. We may not forget you, but many of us will forget your message of truth and justice. This is to say sorry for the numerous times your image will be held up to the sky but your message will be chopped up, half-erased, half-modified to fit self-serving mythologies. Blanket-statements help no one, much less a progressive cause. And yet, sometimes, I think we do not deserve the heroes we have received. We bruise, cut, pulverize them but worst of all, we take them for granted. This is to say sorry for losing that one integral component of any progressive cause: hope.