Beloved Rafif

The last few days, Rafif’s body struggled with sepsis- a systemic infection that tackled her organs. With her complex congenital heart defects and overall health state, Rafif entered into heart failure. In the morning the doctors, with sad hearts, announced that they expected for Rafif to only live for the next few hours. Since July they have poured their hearts and efforts into our little Fifi. I cannot express the amplitude of my gratitude for their kindness and advocacy for her life.

When I saw Rafif, her heart rate was sixty beats per minute, a very low heart rate for her young age. It was now simply a matter of waiting for her heart rate to slowly decrease. It seemed as if her room was filled with pure silence. The lights were dim, and everything seemed still in comparison to the lively movement of people outside and life-saving attempts occurring outside her room. Unable to change the situation, all I could do was to trust in a God who can change every situation according to His will.

I had a desire to hold her and cradle her in my arms, but the various machines and lines created a barrier. The next hour was spent simply stroking her head and holding her little hand. Tears were forming in my eyes, and I managed to form the words:

You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Slowly her heart rate decreased to thirty, and then one by one decreased to zero. Her heart waveform flattened as she entered into eternal peace. Her death was peaceful and painless, with the medications and machines. At her last heart beats and breaths, she was not alone.

No words needed to be said as the doctor and I both looked at her vital signs monitor and then at each other. Soon later another came by the entry to her room and was also at a loss of words, but said “It is finished.” At this moment I was reminded of the word tetelestai, or Greek for “It is finished”–Christ’s last words on the cross. Together as we removed the multitude of lines and machines from Rafif’s frail body, I could not but think of Christ’s body bruised and battered for humanity.

As I gazed upon Rafif I did not see her matted hair, the jaundiced complexion, the bruises, rigid tone, but a beautiful daughter who deserved to be cared for with utmost respect and dignity because she reflects the imago Dei.

Her body was still in the hospital room when we set out to return her to Gaza, so I simply wrapped her prepared 2.2 kg body in a light blue hospital blanket and carried her to the car. It felt as if I was carrying a precious newborn home, and I was comforted that Rafif was already peacefully in her eternal home.

On the way to Gaza, a beautiful sunset painted the sky. The sun is loyal in that it, if God wills, faithfully greets us every morning with rays of light. And though we may not see the sun after it sets, the sun is still there. Through both the light and dark, God is with us.

Silence marked the car as we attempted to respect Rafif and her family. As we waited outside the Gaza checkpoint, waiting for an ambulance to transfer her into Gaza, we heard little cries from outside the car. Surprised, I found three little triplets who were returning to Gaza after a long stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. The contrast between life and death was stark, but I found solace in knowing that the God of all comfort empathizes with the suffering of death. Yet there is hope in also knowing that he reigned victorious over death and offers the gift of eternal life. We praise God for returning these three little children back to Gaza.

After a couple of checks, little Rafif was cleared to cross the border and carried away into Gaza.

I write all these words with tears, but also a peaceful heart. We deeply love Rafif and her family. We continue to pray for peace and comfort for her family as they grieve the loss of their beloved Rafif.

As written in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we continue to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances. God is good. To God be the glory.