A self-made man from the 50s and 60s’ generation, the nobel Salhab labored hard and reached stellar heights by the sweat of his brow, but also clung dearly to his roots and hometown, Roumieh, and embraced its ashes, when death marched in and took him away.
He, who always held onto his calm, pious and polite temperament, gathered contradictions in his name “Omar George” , his two sons George and Tarek, and his sister Dorothy Kathmi, who navigated sects and countries and died at a young age, just like her brother who left a meritorious reputation marked by an elegant, yet modest lifestyle.
“I ought to be doing more…,” the friend who was forever just used to say. Some of us used to be bothered by Omar’s protocol, for we could not match the unparalleled consideration he used to show during the holidays, the sick days and all the joyous or sorrowful events. Moaning in front of friends was alien to him, as he used to check on them regularly even when bed-ridden and breathing his last breath.
The pious secularist, who wouldn’t miss any Sunday mass or a wine or Grappa gathering at the dinner table on week days, surrendered to no temptations; he didn’t return from the Gulf or London with an eye on a ministerial or a parliamentary seat. He was never after prestige, nor did he indulge in the notorious Lebanese extravagance. He kept it simple, playing cards with his friends and family at the village, far from the fuss of convoys and bodyguards. He was human par excellence. From Tripoli to Broumana High School, to Britain, to the AUB, to Saudi Arabia and London, he crossed all roads surrounding himself with dear companions and with the love of a wife who devoted her life with and for him, and a sister who echoed his name in every breath.
With his Jesus, he walked up the Hill of Calvary and lived the life of a man, in every sense that the word manhood bears. He was an exemplary figure for our youth to model after today and tomorrow.
The loving and courteous Omar bid us goodbye after having attracted all the opposites, especially in his friendships. He worked silently, gave silently, ached silently and left… silently.
Jawad N. Adra
When Smiles Are Swans
To Omar Salhab
When in midflight Thanatos shot you down
Smiles left the sky and swans refused to fly
And life’s verdures decayed to noble brown
And greening rains and balming tears went dry.
Fountain you were and unaware you flowed
As fountains do to all who come in thirst
Love mount you were whose white crest always glowed
Brightening nights with many a joyful burst.
Your ancestors, enlightenment and art
Vouchsafed you to our ephemeral times
A siren song that gladdens mind and heart
And tolls our bells with myriad mirthful chimes.
Like you, we’ll serve our turns and bravely die
But who will fill with smiles our swanless sky.