By Emily Craig- Evans
In the last few months of his life, Jehangir Saleh, who studied philosophy at Ryerson, was confined to a hospital room. An intravenous drip hung by his bedside, feeding antibiotics through a plastic tube and into his body 24 hours a day.
For Saleh, the hospital was his second home. Since he was born, he spent most of his time in and out of doctors’ offices undergoing frequent lung tests and various treatments for cystic fibrosis.
Science wasn’t enough to treat the infection in his lungs. Saleh died this past June at the age of 28.
But the things he did while he was alive still continue to inspire those who knew him.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that predominantly affects the lungs, causing them to fill with mucus. Those who suffer from the disease have a reduced lifespan.
But Saleh didn’t let the disorder restrict him. Living on borrowed time helped him inspire others to live fully.
“He made people think about things they wouldn’t normally think about,” said Kym Maclaren, a friend and former Ryerson professor of Saleh’s. “I think we [can be] kind of scared of people who are struggling with illness, there’s a darkness, but there was nothing of that in Jehangir.”
Saleh wanted to do something to involve the community and help other people understand how to live a meaningful life.
In 2010, he collaborated with his cousin, Imran Saleh, on a project.
They posted an ad on Craigslist asking people to share what they would do if they had only days to live. Then they brought the responses to life and tried to make them a reality.
“I knew that time was limited, so we enjoyed it and made the most of it,” Imran said. “It was a challenge for me [because] I was adverse to meeting random people, but Jehangir didn’t care. He would stay up late making plans.”
Cara Goldberg had logged onto Craigslist with the intention of finding a ride from Montreal back to Toronto. Instead, she stumbled across Saleh’s ad.
She had always been meaning to take her grandmother for dinner in the spinning restaurant at the top of the CN Tower, but never ended up doing it because she had no way to get her from North York to downtown.
She responded to the post to see if the Saleh cousins could help her out. Within a few days, she received a reply saying they wanted to make it happen – and they did.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do and I had no excuse not to, so I put it out there to see what would happen,” Goldberg said. “It’s important that we find ways to take advantage of the opportunities we have to connect with the people around us. This was a great call-to-action for this kind of conscientious, carpe diem way of being in the world.”
The ad led to other adventures, like a morning spent caroling in a subway station, a spontaneous artin the-park event and a tango performance in the middle of Yonge Dundas Square.
“Looking back, I’m glad we did it … it was fulfilling and exciting,” Imran said. “[Saleh] was always reminding me that time is limited and it shouldn’t be wasted. We should be thinking about what’s meaningful in our lives.”
Saleh created a sense of community wherever he went by inviting people to indulge in the lighter things many adults seem to forget about. While in the hospital, he threw a disco party in his room, started up a drum circle and held a contest to name his fish (Oscar was the winning pick).
Saleh had cystic fibrosis and everything that comes with it, but he didn’t want the disease to be who he was – it was just something he had.
Despite the heavy themes in his life, he is remembered for his capacity for joy and his ability to make meaningful friendships. Although countless people were affected by his death, many strive to leave behind what he did: a sense of truth, beauty, love and a life well lived.
“He will always be in our hearts and in our breath,” said Jamil Saleh, Jehangir’s father.
With files from Nicole Schmidt