(CNN)A community of believers gathered at a local mosque in Nairobi's Kibera neighborhood to offer special prayers and to grieve a close neighbor, friend, brother and beloved son. The body of a loved one is usually present for memorial services like this one, but this time, the departed is missing.
A family mourns and prays as they wait for remains of man killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash
Abdullahi Ibrahim Mohammed, 34, a lab technician in Saudi Arabia, was among the 157 passengers killed on Sunday when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed just minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. His family has not yet received his remains.
"We do such a prayer, to such a person, knowing that in case the body does not get to be found, then we will have completed one of the rituals that is supposed to be done," Mohammed's uncle, Yusuf Abuhamza, said.
Mohammed was traveling home for his annual leave, a trip that his family says he was eagerly looking forward to as he kept calling and messaging to remind them of his arrival date. Coming from a close-knit family, it had been difficult, at first, for him to take the job in the Middle East country, because it meant being away from home for months at a time. But as the first born son, his parents and siblings depended on him to provide a much better life for them.
"A lot of hopes had been banked on him, so it is so devastating. It is a gap that will not be filled. The way it came, it was a blow," Abuhamza said.
Mohammed was last home in February 2018 for his wedding celebration. His wife was waiting for him at the airport in Nairobi Sunday morning. Back at their family home, relatives and friends were gathering for a feast to welcome him home. Then the devastating news of the plane crash began to trickle in, and their joy turned into mourning.
His mother, Kaltuma Abdallah, remains in shock at the news of his death. She mostly sits on the floor of their living room, silently staring into space, hands clasped on her lap, grief etched in her face.
She shared the plans that Mohammed had for her and his father and also what now seems like a haunting request.
"He wanted to buy us a place, build us a home, a good house. As long as we prayed for him that he doesn't die," she said.
"If he was alive he would do this for us. But now the lord has cut short his life," she said.
Early Tuesday morning, Mohammed's wife and father were back at the Nairobi airport heading to Ethiopia, where they hope to identify their loved one's body and bring it back home for burial. His mother also desperately clings to the hope that his body will be found.
"Whatever they say we will accept. If it is ashes, I want them to bring them. If it is bones, I want them to bring them," she said.
"As long as we see him, that is the only way that we can move on. But without returning his body, we will forget that he's dead. We will keep thinking that there is a day that he will come back."