Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I have to talk about it. I can't not talk about it.
Underneath all the daily routines, the anesthesia work, the chopping of vegetables for dinner and the making of to-do lists, something emotionally important has happened in my life.
I have a new friend.
This is someone I've been waiting to meet and to embrace for years, and he has just arrived in this country and married one of my dearest friends, a heroic woman I've looked up to since I met her in college and who is, I think, one of the greatest souls alive on this earth.
I have to gush about her first. Sheila sang at my wedding. She sings like an angel, writes like a Pulitzer-prize winning author, and is pure grace and and athleticism on a pair of roller blades or on a soccer field. She is one of the most intelligent and articulate people I know. She is kind and generous and deeply spiritual. She graduated from Harvard with honors, has an advanced degree in theology, spent years doing humanitarian work with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, and now speaks fluent Arabic. She applied to medical school under great personal stress (due to her problems trying to negotiate Thaer's safe passage to the U.S.), did exceedingly well in her premed classes and on the MCAT despite these stresses, and will begin her medical career at Harvard Medical School this fall. She's my hero. I imagine the people around in her study groups, anatomy lab, hospital rotations, etc. and wonder what would happen if they, especially the senior residents and faculty, truly realized they were in the presence of a human being who is greater than most. I really believe that. But she's so humble you'd never guess, unless you got to know her. Sheila is a being of light.
Sheila met Thaer while she was with Christian Peacemaker Teams; CPT workers accompanied Palestinians who were fleeing persecution in Iraq to camps on the Syrian border. They fell in love and got engaged. Thaer is an artist and had been a leader and humanitarian activist in his community of Palestinians living in Iraq, with no citizenship and few rights. He has been trapped in refugee camps, caught in legal no-man's-lands of displacement and unimaginable deprivation, imprisoned and tortured with beatings and simulated drownings, and endured sufferings that I may never be able to comprehend in a lifetime. For years Sheila and Thaer have fought through a jungle of catch-22's and horrible conditions that have kept them apart. Then Thaer was able to escape through Turkey to Greece on a boat filled with refugees - a cramped, three-hour voyage across the sea filled with mishaps and fear. By some miracle, despite a mountain range of obstacles that had been preventing his immigrant visa to the U.S. from being completed, he and Sheila prevailed, his visa was approved, and he is now here, safe and sound, with my dear, dear friend. They were married yesterday.
When I met him last Saturday for the first time I threw my arms around him and wept. He is every bit as gentle and sweet as I imagined from my conversations with Sheila about him. He's a wonderful story-teller (even with my embryonic Arabic I could tell!), with a great sense of humor and a visible spirit of joy with the children who were at the same gathering. It's easy to see why Sheila loves him.
I have been given amazing friends from whom I have much to learn.