I am going to describe a painful incident. I am convinced that the episode, though tragic, can bring forth many beneficial effects, as it has done to us and so many others.
Amal is a mother of 4 young men. She just turned 50, her sons have all graduated and are still single. These men are entrepreneurs, are dedicated, and are serious Christians. They are exceptionally mature for their age. They form a very close family, united by bonds of a strong and convinced faith.
They live in a Christian neighborhood in the center of the city of Aleppo, one of the many regions relentlessly bombarded by the random bomb “rains” – as they call it here – on the streets and buildings. Amal was distressed that some bombs might fall on their house, as had happened to so many families. Her eldest son, Naum, told her: “Mom, Do not be afraid, of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” She was reassured by these words and once again placed her family in the hands of God.
The day came when Naum had to undergo a minor surgical procedure. His mother insisted to seek a qualified hospital to do it, but he decided to go to one that was close to home, since it was a simple operation that would involve only a few hours of hospitalization.
It was around 10am when, the operation having been finished, he was moved to a room where he was waiting for the doctor. From the window he could see the Church, which arose majestically from among the uneven buildings. His mother was with him. He was the eldest son, the firstborn, who in the Arab cultural context was the “bearer of the descendants” and so she had a special love for him. His devotion was manifested in his conversations, which were deep and mature, yet at the same time cheerful and jovial, now and then larded with quotes from the Bible, of which, as many Christians here, he knew a good part by memory.
They passed the time chatting. It was past 12 pm and the doctor was delayed in coming. At that time, the entire hospital shook because a missile had fallen on the adjacent building. Naum, calming his mother, told her to run and seek assistance in order to change rooms; since his room faced the street, he feared that other explosions would follow as it usually occurs. His mother had just left when there was a second explosion, caused by a missile which had fallen just opposite the hospital. Amal, who was going up the stairs for help, desperately returned to the room to protect her son. But Naum already “slept” … Splinters of the missile had hit the windows of the room, and one of the splinters traversed his right side, piercing the heart.
Naum was the only fatal victim in those two monstrous explosions … What comfort can be found on this earth for a mother who loses her son in such a manner? What balm could alleviate such pain? Yet we see her here, participating in the Holy Mass, and crying silently while praying. She prays for all the mothers who, like her, have lost their children due to the war. “I’m not the only one suffering,” she says, “There are so many broken families in Syria.” And while those who try to comfort her with human reasoning do not succeed, she herself feels comforted again and again by recalling the words of her son: “Mom, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
“The Blessed Virgin Mary has taken him and now holds him in her arms. Now She cares for him better than what I could do,” she told me, while sobbing. And raising her eyes lit with hope, she concludes smilingly: “He was ready for Heaven”.
Sr. María de Guadalupe