Stories from Afar & Up Close

The People I've Met (1)

There was this family I met in Cairo. Mother and father and daughter, from Iraq. The daughter was in her early teens, if I remember correctly. She was in a wheelchair, could barely control the movement of her arms and legs, could utter sounds but no coherent sentences or even words. She was a delight, and so were her parents. Their love for her was so beautiful, it made me stop whatever I was doing to observe them. They cheered her on in the most loving way possible, every time she managed to master something new, a new word, a new sound, a new movement.
I asked if she was born this way. Her mother told me they had waited and hoped for and wanted a child for 12 years before she finally became pregnant. Their baby was born healthy and grew up to be this smart, cheerful girl, until one day when she was about four years old – a day when the Americans bombed their city. A huge blast close to their house blew out the windows, and the girl fell from her bed where she was sleeping. She wasn’t hurt, or so it seemed, but the next day she stopped talking, stopped moving, stopped reacting. It took two years before she slowly started moving, uncontrollably, and making sounds. “We’re still thankful every day that God has given her to us,” her mother said, “and we’re thankful for every day we get to spend with her.” There wasn’t a hint of anger in her voice.