1. It was a dark but not a stormy night 🙂 probably around 12:30 in the morning on a very heavily traveled road outside of a major metropolitan center. Mark was driving and he was exhausted having just finished a challenging take-home engineering examination that was more math than English. He and his older brother, Jason, already out of college and working in a similar field were driving home to spend the holiday with their parents, two hopeless romantics with useless degrees in liberal arts, but I digress. Suddenly up ahead Mark saw a car spin completely out of control, he had no idea what had happened, all he could see was the headlights of a car as it spun around and landed in the median strip. As the brothers came closer they could see that two cars had collided and that the damage was severe. Mark pulled over to the side of the road and the brothers called 911 and exited their car to see if they could offer assistance to the victims.
Abdul was driving about a full minute behind the engineering brothers. In his mid forties, Abdul spoke English with a very heavy accent. We don’t know what he was doing out driving at such an ungodly hour, maybe he worked in a local restaurant and had just gotten off his shift? He never said, the brothers never asked.
Abdul didn’t see the accident happen, but as the silhouettes of the cars and the brothers standing near at scene came into focus he could see that this accident could very well have fatalities. Abdul pulled over, phoned the police and got out of his car to lend a helping hand.
One car, badly damaged on one side, held a couple with a very small child. The mother got out of the car carrying her little one. Both seemed okay and those who had stopped, the two brothers, Abdul, and a fourth person, checked them out. The husband managed to get out of the car, told the fourth person that he was okay, and then lost consciousness. At least he had someone who was with him until professional help arrived.
The other car posed a more serious problem. The front end was shattered, glass was everywhere, twisted steel from the car looked like someone’s idea of a metal sculpture you find in front of government buildings sometimes. The engine was still running, the brothers and Abdul could smell what seemed to be leaking fuel, possible leaking oil as well. There was no light in the car, no one was getting out. Mark was torn between his real fear that the car could go up in flames at any moment and his feeling of responsibility to help whomever was inside. From a distance none of them could tell who or how many were in the car.
Abdul led the way, followed by the older of the two brothers, Mark was behind them. Abdul went right up the driver’s side door and tapped on the window. The older brother held a light to the window, using his cell phone as a flashlight. The door opened slightly, inside was a young woman, barely conscious. Abdul whisked her away immediately taking her to the safety of his vehicle where she sat until help arrived.
Once he was satisfied the woman was okay and safe inside his car, Abdul went back out and talked to the brothers. They exchanged first names and chatted. The older brother asked Abdul how the young lady was. Abdul told him that she appeared to be okay, but that as he had half-carried her to his car he could smell the alcohol. “That’s was probably what caused the accident,” he said. The older brother nodded.
Helped arrived. The handful of people who had stopped to offer help spoke with the police about what they saw. No one can count the number of cars that had driven by right when the accident happened and which did not stop of offer assistance or to bear witness.
When they were done and all of the victims were in good hands, Abdul returned quietly to his car, started it up, and drove off alone into the darkness.
This is a true story. The two brothers, whose names I have changed, are my sons. Abdul was the name the al-Khidr like stranger gave them. He was a hero that night, and we don’t even know his real name.
2. My favorite line of poetry is the opening couplet from the Masnavi.
Listen to the reed, how it tales its tale
Complaining of separations
The scene at the airport was riveting, though I was the only outsider who knew what was going on. Nobody else noticed a thing. In fact, I knew more than at least one of the people who were actually involved.
There was a family there, a husband, a wife, and a daughter in her very early teens. The father and daughter had come to the airport to pick up the wife and the three stood at the luggage carousel waiting for what seemed to all of us who had been on the plane like an eternity.
The wife hugged her daughter for quite some time as the three waited. The separation had not been a long one, she had been away on business for just a few days. But mother and daughter are very close, so close that the youngin is never embarrassed at having her mom with her, never. And the mom never ever tires of talking about this daughter, a lovely young lady whose facial features reflected the best of her mom’s.
But this was a special hug, a special return and the mom knew it as she held on to her dear one. The youngster did not know what was about to happen, though I suspect that she did have some suspicions.
The dad knew. The mom knew. I knew. Thank God some friends of mine who were also on the plane were waiting – did I mention it seemed like forever? – at the carousel too and I was able to distract myself from the portrait of a soon to be broken family that was standing just a few feet away. It really was a portrait-like scene, a handsome man married to a beautiful woman and their gorgeous and precocious child with a refined ability to drive her older sister nuts.
The marriage, in any real sense, had ended years earlier. He, for whatever reasons, and the mom has postulated many – all of them plausible, lost his ability to show, to offer, to give – love. She could not live without it, at least not for the rest of her life. A lifeless and loveless marriage had become more than she could bear. Nonetheless she always remained faithful. It’s just the way she is.
After years of trying to help her husband and to get him to be something resembling the man she had once married, she gave up and told him a few days before this trip that she was leaving. He was okay with it. They’ll share the kids.
The children did not know. Not yet. But that knowledge was just a few days away.
As I stood at the carousel looking at these three souls, I was ever so thankful that I was going home to my wife and that the two brothers in the first story above were going to be with us.
3. As long-time readers of this blog know, one of my favorite blogs is the Mermaid’s Sea, a blog by a young Egyptian woman with an artistic and spiritual bent. For those of you who may read my blog but are not very family with Middle Eastern or Muslim culture, her blog would be a interesting place to start as it reflects the very obvious (except to Americans) fact that our Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters are real multi-dimensional human beings who would much much rather be friends with us and that having friendships with them is a great thing. But in a “culture” and I am using that term very loosely, that raises charlatans like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to iconic status and that in opposition to such cretins is only able to idolize the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, things that are obvious to everyone else on the planet remain as mysteries wrapped in an enigma. Anyway, she writes in both English and Arabic so don’t let not knowing Arabic be a barrier.
The Mermaid’s most recent post ties in closely with the couplet from Rumi I mentioned above. It is a story about separation, longing and love. It’s a true story. It is her story. With her permission, I have translated it into English here. Note to Shas Party members, it is very short, so your attention span won’t be stretched and I bet even you Shas Party guys can see some of the connections in these three stories.
Here is her story.
An Empty Place in My Memory
You have not yet arrived, but I am preparing myself well for your coming. I always write down whatever happens to me compiling the memories and precious things that happen so that I can share them all with you when you come. I even store within myself the very flavor of my morning coffee so I can give you a taste of it. I am storing up the scent of the vanilla and berry flavored candles that I am always lighting so that you will know what comforts me on cold winter nights. I will take hold of your fingers so you can trace the tracks of my tears on my cheeks, tears shed over many years. My conversations with my closest friends, these I commit in their entirety to memory so that I can recount them to you. My graduation photos with me smiling, somewhat confused, the many months, winters, and tales that have taken place between me my friends – all of these await you. I have left my footprints along the streets of my beloved hometown so that we can follow them together. I am saving my favorite dress from when I was a child so you can see my innocence. And I am keeping my warmth wrapped up in my shawl so you will be able to feel it.
I know that when you do come, you will come longingly to me and that we will build our memories together. But, my dear, you must know what has happened in my life so that you can help create our reality. I need you to taste my past, to breath in the fragrances of bitterness and joy in my life. I need you to experience the tenderness as well as the harshness of the nights I have spent. I need you to embrace within yourself my past so that it can illuminate for you the winding roads my soul has taken. I am a woman in whose heart the scents of coffee and dark chocolate are mixed with the sound of joyous laughter tinged with bitter tears .
And that is why in the reaches of my memory, I leave an empty place just for you, empty until you come both to share in my life and to make it new.
4. I was hesitant at first to post the video below, but it really is worth watching as well as listening to. If your heart is cold, it will warm it up, if your spirit is dark, it may lighten it for at least a while. It takes a minute or two to get going, but the scenes and imagas are great and I love the song and the music.
Please note, the video contains an advertisement for the album of which it is a part. I have nothing to do with this album and do not know anyone involved in making it. In addition, the video at the end gives a tribute to two shaykhs. While I know of them, I do not know them and am not in any way affiliated with them and their organization. Though quite frankly, if I were ever to have the chance to meet either of them, I’m sure it would be an enriching experience for me if not for them. And I’m thinking about buying the DVD too.
I hope you will enjoy the very well known Madad Madad, done here by the Burdah Ensemble, as much as I did. (It even has a pretty good English subtitles so linguistically challenged British puppet monarchs can follow along.)