A New Birth

It’s amazing the things the occasion of birth can make you think about. Hardly able to contain my excitement yesterday, waiting for the birth of my third niece, with everyone in the family in alert mode getting ready for the big arrival, it occurred to me that this is the best birthday one could possibly have, the birthday you weren’t in the least aware of. Everyone so thrilled to see you, to give you a name, to finally see how you look like, rushing around making preparations to welcome you into this world. Up to that point you’ve been a mystery, and on that day you’re the main act, the biggest thing no matter how tiny you are.

Indeed, I can’t imagine a happier occasion than the birth of a new baby. Think about it this way, we consider death the ultimate cause for grief, and funerals the gravest of events. Hence, naturally, welcoming a new life into this world must be the ultimate reason for celebration.

And the I look at the baby, for that’s been my favorite hobby for the past two days, and I think: We’re all born like that, and we’re treated like we’re something extraordinary, and then we grow up and some of us live up to that potential that was trusted to us, while others settle for being another face in the crowd.

And then of course there’s that old hard-to-fathom idea that even Hitler, Stalin, Ariel Sharon and Donald Trump were once this little and cute. Hard to fathom, I told you.

And it seems boring and redundant when you think of the big outlines only, like: We’re born, we’re small, we grow up, we may or may not be so special, we live, and we finally die.  But that’s not it. It’s the little details that make a life. The cooing sounds a baby makes, their first steps, the first time they taste chocolate , first day of school, their first crush, sharing your old memories with them, giving them books to read, watching them grow up and have babies of their own, and all the emotions going up and down throughout that journey. Nothing boring about that if you ask me.

New births, isn’t it awesome that it’s something that happens every day?


Paris et al.

Person 1: It’s tragic what’s happened in Paris

Person 2: Yeah, totally insane. All these innocent people.

Person 1: Yes. I have a couple of French friends so I was up all night trying to make sure they were fine.

Person 2: Oh, I hope they were safe.

Person 1: Yes, thank God. I couldn’t know what to say except to express my deep sympathy and my apologies.

Person 2: Wait, what were you apologizing for?

Person 1: The bombings, you know.

Person 2: I’m sorry, I’m not following. What did you have to do with the bombings?

Person 1: Not me, but you know, because those were our people who did it,

Person 2: “Our people”, person 1, when did you join ISIS?

Person 1: I didn’t, it’s just that they are from here and they are Muslims

Person 2: They call themselves Muslims, that doesn’t make them our people and doesn’t make us responsible for their heinous acts.

Person 1: Well, we share something.

Person 2: Really? Tell me now because I don’t get it, as a Muslim living in the Middle East, who has never been to France, never incited against non-Muslims, never committed any discriminatory acts or promoted self-supremacy and have always spoken against terrorism, how am I supposed to be held responsible for the acts of some lunatics miles away who were created by certain powers for the sake of their own political agendas and then they were made to believe that killing people gives an express trip to Heaven? How am I supposed to be put in the same circle as these criminals just because at face value we seem to share the same beliefs?

Person 1: But people in the West don’t know that.

Person 2: Well then they need to educate themselves about it. You know what else they need to know? They need to know that ISIS kills many more Muslims that it does None-Muslims. How many people in the West know that? How many people heard about the bombings at the Mosque in Beirut one night before the Paris bombings where scores of people were killed? How about all the others slaughtered by ISIS in Syria? How about the bombings in the mosques in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait perpetrated by none other than ISIS? How about the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by ISIS, that was a devout Muslim by the way. How can we be held accountable when we are victims ourselves?

Person 1: Well, for them those ISIS members came from amongst us

Person 2: Every society has its deluded bunch, and extremism can thrive wherever it finds fertile soil. As there are Islamic extremists there are right wing extremists in Europe and America, Jewish extremists in Israel, extremism isn’t confined to one religion or nationality. Heck, there are even extremist Buddhist killing Muslims in Burma by the hundreds, did the world know about that? No, because they only see what the media shows them.  So, instead of blaming a whole religion or people, go blame those who are funding terrorist groups and funding the war in Syria and the Middle East.

Person 1: That’s true, but perhaps they feel they have the right to demand an apology.

Person 2: Look, I understand what happened was horrendous, and they have the right to be angry, but we’re not the people they should be angry at, nor are we the ones who need to be making apologies. You don’t see Arabs going around demanding apology from every Jew in the world because of the Israeli on-slaughter of the Palestinians, and we surely didn’t demand an apology from every Christian in the world after Bush invaded Iraq killing hundreds of thousands while calling it a crusade. In fact, we Arabs, Muslims, the French people, the Latino people and everyone suffering from these wars all over the world have one common enemy. The powers that be who work in the shadows to serve their own political and fiscal agendas. Those may claim to belong to different religions, but in the end they all share the same values of greed and thirst for power. Those are the ones who pin us against each other, those are the ones whose interest lies in spreading hatred and discrimination, the ones who divide to rule. Those are the ones we should look out for, and the ones who should be making apologies.

Don’t be naïve, Person 1, this is much bigger than you and me, much bigger than all of us.

The Light From Beyond the Grave

I’ve never been a particularly depressive person. Well, for the most part at least. However, sometimes drama somehow catches up with you, be it your own life drama, the drama you make up in your head and the evening news drama. So, there were times where you’d find myself balancing at the edge of that abyss, trying hard not to fall or, sometimes not even trying hard enough.

For me, it was a couple of months ago that I was swayed that way. You know how life feels uncertain at times, and fears starts creeping into your bed at night like the stealthiest of snakes. And you realize how fast it’s all happening, that you’re now old enough to remember things from 10 years that weren’t childhood memories, and that’s when it gets challenging, when you realize that you’re a grown-up and you must own up to it.

In the midst of all that, I woke up one day to find that I was added to a closed Facebook group that brought together girls from my middle school where I spent two years, the 7th and the 8th grades. For some reason, those are the school years I’m most nostalgic for, but all that nostalgia and the cascade of memories didn’t help, especially with the numbers of girls said to have passed away young during the intervening years.

However, one story in particular drew my attention. One of the girls posted something in answer to those who were asking her about her sister, telling them that she passed away 3 and a half years ago. A friend of hers posted a few pictures of her, and the first thing I felt was this deep compassion with that girl I never knew, not only because she was young and pretty, there was something about her, a beauty that shone out of her eyes,  which didn’t seem to wane even when her illness started manifesting itself on her. You look at the picture and you can see that she is smiling from her heart, not because she has to, not because she was in any sort of denial, it was the smile of someone who’s at peace with herself, who knows it’s going to be fine one way or another.

Intrigued by that notion, I did some further looking up on Facebook, where I came upon a page dedicated for her memory, and that’s when I was totally blown away. I mean, surely death creates an aura of reverence around the dead, and hearing about someone passing away always has a humbling impact on you, even if you didn’t like that person, but you always manage to find something good to say about them in the heat of the moment. But to find all this love, all these heartfelt words by all these people years after the fact, this must tell you something about that dearly departed.

Seeing that, it was obvious to me that wasn’t an ordinary person, she must have done something right, something special, and I felt a compelling need to find out what it was, or how she was. The bittersweet surprise was when I googled her name and an abundance of links turned up. She was a fellow blogger, and after some further digging I found that she started blogging after she was diagnosed with cancer. Going through her posts, I saw no self-pity, no anger, only faith, love, joy, compassion, and all the good things that come with that. There was only light, and more light.

She was mourned by fellow bloggers who never met her but who were influenced by her beautiful soul just as I was years after her death. Looking at her eyes, so full of life, you can see that she was someone with so much to give that she didn’t just give to those she knew, but also those she didn’t. Not only during her life, but also after her death.

Her name was Ola Muath, she was born in 1983 and left this world in 2012. We never met, but she taught me that life is indeed uncertain, that’s a built-in feature of life, but it doesn’t mean you should live your life with uncertainty. She taught me that this is where you are now so try to make the best of it until your last breath, because it doesn’t matter when you leave this earth as long as you make sure to have made your mark in it, to have made it slightly a better place. She taught me not to be afraid, to embrace whatever comes your way, deal with it with grace and trust that God has a plan for you, a plan bigger than whatever you dream up. She taught me that death is not the end, and I’m sure she’s there somewhere now reaping the fruits of all the good seeds she sowed during her short but precious life.

I wish I’ve known Ola before she left, but I’m grateful to have known her at all, and I hope that one day I’ll meet her in a better place to say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, face to face.