“With severe sorrow and a heart aching with pain, we announce the death of 30 martyrs and 65 injured. We condemn this ghastly, horrific act. This terrorist attack did not only target the Christians of Egypt but the entire nation indeed. Attacking a group of worshipers praying in peace on a Christmas Eve is a sub-human deed. And, whoever is responsible for this massacre will be dealt with aggressively without mercy. Our deepest condolences to our compatriots. We will not sleep nor slumber until we avenge for the dreadful bloodshed. May God bless you all. God bless Egypt. President Mohamed Abd EL Fatah El-Sisi.”
The president’s first official statement, after the terrorist incident, was aired on the hospital’s TV screen. Flora could not tolerate the bloody scenes that followed the president’s statement. And, as Christina was transferred now to the Intensive Care Unit, Flora wanted to get as far as possible from any noise, screams and bloody scenes. So, she approached one of the nurses and asked if there was a chapel or a prayer room in the hospital. She wanted to clutch onto the last straw and pray. She mustered some faith and mixed it with a little bit of hope and headed to the prayer room.
The room was relatively small, the light was significantly dimmed to the point that one might fall asleep while praying. There was no chair, only a cushioned, old, red pillow on the floor, a wooden table with a human-size crucifix statue on top, a red beaded rosary hung on it, and a barely used bible.
Flora took a couple of steps, placed her knees on the pillow before the crucifix statue, shut her eyes as her palms pressed together in prayer.
“Dear Lord, I know I don’t have the right to ask you why. I know you are good no matter what. I also know that I will never be able to love her more than you do. I know that she was your gift to me and maybe its time to give her back. I know that the dream she had was a vision, a message, a sign. I know that the piercing I have been feeling all day, without a clear reason why was a warning to what I am dealing with right now. I know that if she leaves, she will be with You and her dad. She will be happy. She will have a great company. She will enjoy her time up there…. But….. what about me, Lord? I have gotten nothing left. When her dad departed, I was in grief, but I still had her. I was consoled by her presence in my life. I am living for her. She is all that I got. I can’t picture my life without Christina in it. You have to heal her, Lord. You got to do something. I can’t pass this test, I am not Father Abraham! I can’t offer my Isaac as a sacrifice. I can’t let go, Lord. You know what…don’t fully heal her but at least keep her alive for me. I promise you, I will take good care of her, I will drop everything and serve her all day and night. Please, Lord. I beg you. I am not ready, Lord. I don’t think I will ever be. I trust you and I will always be faithful, but it’s hard. So hard. I cant. It’s such a heavy cross. I can’t carry it, Lord. I can’t. I can’t. I cant.”
Flora’s eyes were shut the entire time with streams of tears running down her face. The pillow underneath was soaked. Her hands were clasped, and her body was curled like a baby in its mother’s womb.
Eventually, she fell asleep in her praying position.
“I have been waiting for you, Flora. Come here, I have saved you a seat.”
Even though his face was so familiar, and she was certain that she had seen him before, Flora couldn’t tell who that man was.
“Do you know me?”
“Of course, I know you. I have known you since you were a little baby.”
Bewilderment cloaked Flora’s face. How did this man get here? How did he know her name? How did he look so familiar, yet she still didn’t fully recognize him?
“All these questions are not important right now.” The man struck Flora with what he said.
She looked more puzzled, but she was not scared nor anxious. She could not tell what it was. The man stretched his hand to Flora’s. She thought she would be hesitant to grasp his, but to her surprise, she wasn’t.
“Where are you taking me, sir?” She was surprised that she called him sir, even though he looked younger than her. She couldn’t tell what it was, but the man was wrapped in reverence.
“Aren’t you here for Christina – your daughter?”
Flora nodded her head.
“I will take you to her,” the man smiled.
“But how? She is in the ICU and visitations are not allowed.”
Flora started to question why this man seemed so authoritative. Was he one of the doctors? He was not wearing any uniform though. As she was engulfed in her thoughts, the man asked;
He opened the door of the prayer room, walked down the hospital’s hallway, turned right, then left until he got to a big, tall, wooden double door. Flora looked confused. She was certain that this door was not there before. She turned around, left and right, there was no one there but the two of them.
“Where are you taking me, sir? This is not the way to the ICU!”
“Who told you we are going to the ICU, Flora?” The man smiled again.
“Sir, you told me you are taking me to Christina!”
“Yes, I told you I am taking you to Christina, but I didn’t mention anything about the ICU. Just trust me.”
Even though Flora was confused, she felt at peace. This peace she had never felt before. She decided not to argue further and to follow the man contently.
As the man opened the big wooden door, a beautiful, green garden was revealed. Flora looked at the man and then back at the garden. She had a weird feeling. She had heard about this garden before, but it was her first time seeing it. Greenery wrapping the earth. Tall palm trees, red roses, purple tulips, yellow, white and blue flowers were covering the ground. On the other side, a glittering turquoise river welded with a pure, flawless sky. Lofty, golden palaces on both sides. White domes with silver entrances. Beautiful, furry animals running around. People were laughing, chatting and having fun with each other. They all looked happy and relaxed. Some of them wore white, while others wore white with a red ribbon around their waist.
Flora was overwhelmed by the extravagant scenery. She could not take her eyes off of it. She felt great joy and peace just being there. She wished she could stay and never come back. She didn’t even seem anguished anymore. She forgot about her pain as soon as she stepped in that place.
“I see that you like the place here, Flora?”
“I love it!”
“It’s not that bad to be here, yeah?”
“Bad! It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, sir. I wish I could afford living here. It’s so serene and peaceful.”
“You sure can. Anyone can live here. It’s up to you in the end.”
“How so? I can’t even afford a bedroom in a place like this, even if I saved up my entire life.”
“You need to save, that’s true. But you don’t need to save money, Flora.”
Flora looked at him trying to understand what he was hinting at.
“Don’t be confused, you will understand everything at the right time.”
The man took a couple of steps backward while Flora was staring at the garden, still fascinated by everything surrounding her. He talked to another man and asked him for something. Flora was deeply drawn into the point that she forgot about the reason why she was there in the first place.
As she mused, she watched out of the corner of her eye someone approaching her. She turned her head slowly to the right side. She blinked a couple of times not believing what she just saw.
“Edward!” she gasped.
“I missed you so much, Flora.” Edward, Flora’s late husband held her hands and hugged her tightly.
Flora froze in her place with her mouth wide open. She was stunned by everything happening around her. She couldn’t be sure now if this was a dream, vision or reality.
“Edward…… where are we?…… Are you real?…… You didn’t die!……. What is happening, Edward?……… I am losing my mind! Please tell me, what is going on for God’s sake.”
“Calm down, honey. There is no death here. Don’t you notice that everything is so lively and vibrant in this place? Do I look dead to you?”
Flora still looked bewildered. Everything was happening too fast for her fried brain to grasp. Then, she saw the man coming her way with a beautiful young lady, dressed in a beautiful white, long dress, in his hand.
“Mom.” Christina ran to Flora, wrapped her arms around her neck and hugged her tightly.
Flora was sobbing, but out of joy this time. She embraced her daughter and pressed her head against her chest. She held her face with her two palms and showered her with kisses everywhere. She felt like she had not seen Christina for ages. After a little while, she held her hands, then her head, she checked her body, making sure that she was not hurt.
“Are you ok, sweetheart? Are you still bleeding? Are you sore, baby girl?”
“Ma, I couldn’t be better.” Christina took her mom’s hands and pressed them against her body.
“Do you see any cuts, bruises or scars?”
Flora shook her head.
“I am healed, Ma. And I am happy. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t be happier.”
Christina covered Flora’s face with her hand and said; “I wanna stay, Ma….. Please…. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be in pain back there. This has been always the desire of my heart. I have always wanted to be with him, Ma.”
“To be with who, Christina?”
Christina turned around and pointed at the man in the corner and said; “Him……Jesus.”
Flora turned around quickly. All of a sudden, the scales that veiled her vision fell immediately and she couldn’t look at Him anymore. Jesus was surrounded by a strong halo of light.
To be Continued….
Illustration by Iskander’s Art