A Contemporary Story
This is a real story. It is not a story of a martyr living during the era of martyrdom who tolerated the suffering for the sake of the faith in Christ. On the contrary, this is what I myself came in touch with in the land of immigration. It is about a young man who faced death in the most critical circumstances.
I tell this story not from a confession of the young man or as a family secret, but through the elaborated details that the young man told. The facts of this story had touched the hearts of many Copts who lived in the same city where this young man lived.
The young man opened his eyes to find himself surrounded by a team of doctors and nurses who were binding his wounds. They were trying to save his life. He lied motionless aching allover.
“What happened?” the young man asked himself, but he could not find an answer in his memory. After deep thinking he remembered those fearful moments when his life was about to end. As he was driving his car, an accident was about to happen, and he realized that there was no way for him to escape death. He did not have time to think. Before he knew it, he lost his conscious in that accident, and there he was in the hospital. He had no idea how long he has been unconscious, is it hours, days or weeks? He had no clue.
When the young man opened his eyes, the doctors sighed of relief. The nurses tried to start a conversation with him about anything other than the car accident, trying to fill his heart with tranquility and comfort. They wanted to direct his thoughts away from the pain. As for him, his attention was directed to something else other than what they were talking about, though they were nice and compassionate, and showed great concern.
He was completely silent and did not utter a word. He did not even show any expression on his face. The strange thing was that he did not even ask them about the accident, or the extent of his injuries. He did not show any concern or worry about his life. He did not ask about his wife, and two children, his family who left their homeland and relatives to immigrate and live thousands of miles away. This small family was neglected by this young man, who just wanted to have fun and was only seeking his own pleasure what ever the price was.
His eyes were not looking at anyone or anything around him, but rather staring far away where what no one else can see. He gathered all his energy and closed his eyes again; but tears were flowing out of it in a noticeable way. He could not lift his hands to wipe the tears, so one of the nurses reached and wiped his tears gently. Everyone around him thought that since he gained his conscious he started to feel the severity of pain from his serious injuries. “Could it be that he was unable to express his pain by words, and that is why his eyes were filled with tears?” Everyone thought they did not realize what was on his mind.
As the young man gained his conscious, he did not feel the pain. On the contrary his thoughts and attention were far away from the accident, his injuries and the pain. He felt that the unseen God has transfigured before him visiting him with his love as if He was taking him into His bosom. He was able to feel the tender and merciful hand of God patting his shoulder.
This young man’s eyes were opened to see things he was unable to see before and his heart felt things he was unable to feel before. He felt the concern of his Savior towards him and he started calling upon Him, “My life could have ended by this dreadful accident as it usually happens with many, but Your love for me let You save me. You have given me a new chance to return back to You, and I will repent that You may be my share.”
The world has become small in the eyes of the injured young man. He realized that all the efforts he has done for his own pleasure evaporated in few moments. He felt that he was deceived by the lust of his body and fooled by the pleasures of the world. But now the gates of heaven are opened specially for him. He saw God’s plan for his salvation unfold clearly before his eyes. It was as if God had left everything to be concerned only with his salvation. He “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
His tribulation turned to a great opportunity for repentance and he reaped the fruit of repentance: peace and joy. His heart and his feelings surpassed the pain of his body. He did not think about the seriousness of his injuries or become worried about the fate of his family if he died and left them in a strange country.
Any way the young man’s heart and thoughts were as if separated from the body and its pain. He ascended with his thoughts and feelings to heaven declaring his repentance, thanking God for giving him another chance.
The critical moment passed. His inner peace helped in healing his wounds faster. The doctors told him he could leave the hospital and go home.
His family received him with great joy, for they felt as if they have lost him for a while because of the weakness of the human nature and the temptations of the world. Then, he put in his heart to live for God and to take good care of his family. It was a new beginning of a new life for all the family.
The young man was not healed completely from his wounds and he revisited the hospital from time to time for medical supervision. This did not disturb the peace of the family or let them lose their peace and joy.
One day the young man felt severe pain in his stomach, and was taken to the hospital. He was investigated immediately by the doctor who took care of him after the accident. The doctor thought that the pain was a result of, or somehow related to, the accident.
After performing the necessary tests and examining him, the doctor told him an urgent surgery was needed with no delay to remove tumors that appeared in his stomach.
I do not know what the reaction of his wife was when she heard this news from the doctor. I know this would be very disturbing news in Egypt. How much more would it be in this situation in a strange land away from the family and the loved ones! There was no family atmosphere that may comfort him, no friends to surround him in the time of his calamity and his sickness.
As for the young man, he agreed upon having the surgery without even asking about the amount of risk involved. He did not show any sign of disturbance. On the day of the surgery and after the young man regained his conscious, the doctor who was standing next to his bed started talking to him frankly. “We thought that we would remove the tumors from your stomach. But we were surprised when we found out that the tumors spread allover your abdomen to a degree that made us unable to remove anything. There is no cure for you here or at any other place in the world. Cancer had spread all over your intestine. All that we can offer is some injections and medication to relieve your pain. It would be few weeks, after which you’ll suffer unbearable pains. Then you would go into a coma and your life will end shortly after. I advise you to leave the hospital so that you can arrange with an attorney to prepare your will and arrange for the needs of your family.”
The doctor talked to his wife about the painful news and asked her to deal with this rationally and objectively, and not emotionally. This was very hard on the wife, because of the circumstances around her. She needed to become tougher for a while to be able to manage her situation. The young husband left the hospital before his wounds were healed from the surgery. His poor wife accompanied him, and the shadow of death was in front of her face, attacking her young husband to destroy the family completely.
One afternoon, a deacon came to me very disturbed. I asked him, “Why are you disturbed?”
He answered bitterly, “I’ve a Coptic colleague at work, whom you don’t know. He hasn’t been to church for years even before he came to this country. His address isn’t in your church records. He’s a very special case and he lives far from the church. He’s a good friend of mine and he’s a very nice and loving young man. It’s known about him that he’s extremely open and frank that he didn’t leave any colleague whatever his race is, till he told him the details of his tragedy.”
The deacon told me this story with a lot of concern, as if the injured one was his brother or one of his family members.
As soon as I heard this story I was very sad. I felt the responsibility of the church toward that person even if he did not leave his address in the church. The church should search for every soul that is troubled by sin, withdrawn to the world, or deceived by its pleasures. Imagine what would have happened if this young man died before he repented. Who would have been responsible for that? I put in my heart to go immediately to visit this family, and try to save this young man before he gives up his last breath. I felt I needed to take care of the family spiritually and psychologically.
Within minutes I was on my way with the deacon to visit this family. I did not think what to say to a strange young man who was facing death, or to the family members who were about to loose the only source of support they had, represented in this young man. One thing I was sure of, that God the Lover of mankind is the only one who can help His children, and strengthen them in time of tribulation.
After less than an hour I was knocking on the door, a kindhearted young lady opened the door. She was calm and simply said to me, “Father, pray for my husband, that God would heal him.”
I comforted her with simple words and went to the room where her husband lied. He was delighted when we entered his room as if heaven was opened before him. He was lying in bed motionless, but he was in a strange lively state. He lifted his head and I hugged him. His face was cheerful and his heart was full of joy.
I asked myself, “Is this is a state of a person who faces certain death and know that his death is so close and no one will carry the responsibility of his family after him?”
I did not expect to see him in such a state of cheerfulness. Many are disturbed and fear sickness and death. Many feel guilty and disturbed in this kind of situation. They feel guilty towards their children because they took them from among their family and brought them unto this far and strange land.
Any way the young man welcomed me with his heart more than his words. I asked everyone to leave the room, so that he can confess. I can not speak about what went on during these great moments, but I can say that I felt the effect of the Spirit of God as if heaven had been opened, and the heavenly hosts are rejoicing for his repentance.
The young man offered a sincere and true repentance after many years away from the Lord. His tears of repentance were mixed with the tears of spiritual joy and peace. As for his confession it is not my right to reveal it, even after his departure. All I can say I was shaken with each word he spoke; I was crushed with his broken and contrite heart. I rejoiced for his joy and peace. After confession the deacon and the wife returned to the room. We talked about the word of God, we praised God and offered thanks, and Eternity was the center of our contemplation.
The young man asked for some tapes of the Divine Liturgy, and the Psalmody (praises) that he may hear it and keep his mind on his Savior at all times. He also asked to have communion and I brought communion to him several times. Many of his friends, the Copts, visited him to see how the young man was facing death with joy had learned a lesson for their lives.
To tell the truth, during all my visits to him, I did not see him once gloomy or depressed though he was suffering from severe cancer pains. I did not see him once grumbling; but so many who were in pain visited him and came out of his home with their hearts full of peace. His talk with his visitors was about the providence of God, His love and about eternity which he sought and his anxiety to see it.
Many times he said these words, “Pray for me father not to be healed, I’m not afraid of death, but I thank God who enables me to have the eternal life. Ask God and pray for me not to go through the severe pain which the doctor said I’d go through, so that I wouldn’t be weakened and sin even with my thoughts or my heart towards God. I don’t ask God to let me live longer because of my two young daughters, for they are His children and He can take better care of them.”
Three weeks went by and the young man did not enter the stage of severe pain. The wife called for me in the church and left a message that her husband went into a coma and he was in critical condition. She called the ambulance to take him to the hospital. I heard the message at a late hour at night and I went immediately to the hospital. The nurses told me that his wife had left and he was alone.
Since he was in a coma he spoke to no one and here he was spending the last moments of his life. I entered the room where he was alone except for one nurse who was watching him. I stood before that angel who suffered pain with joy. After I prayed, I called his name whispering. He opened his eyes, but could not speak and he smiled for a little while, closed his eyes and gave his last breath.
She is Your Daughter, Not
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