There is a short walking trail near the adult cardiac building at Sheba. Bushes of lavender line the paved path and it is shaded by a canopy of trees, next to a man-made pond. A few weeks ago, Moshe, Georgia, and I sat outside there with Alaa.
That is one of the many places that I will think of Alaa whenever I pass it. The adult heart building will always be where my sister, her husband and I met him for his surgery consult in January of 2020, where I went ten months later to arrange for his pre-operative echo, and the cardiac surgery ICU will always be the place where my dear friend died at 9:20 am on March 1, 2021. His body shut down and even the machines and medicines keeping him alive could no longer sustain him. So we said goodbye there today before his body was transported back to Gaza.
While Berith and I sat with him yesterday and for the last couple of times I’ve visited him, the only words I could say were I’m sorry. I’m so sorry it has ended like this. This is not what I thought when I walked these hallways of Sheba a year ago wondering how I could raise enough money for his surgery, and nervously anticipating how God would provide. It turns I didn’t really have to do that much. It was a nurse volunteering at Shevet, a small church in Oklahoma she knew, and some friends and family on Facebook who gave to enable him to come for his surgery. Alaa means a lot to many people all around the world. The memories I have in Sheba hospital, Berith likewise shares different ones in Jerusalem, and Julio, Jonathan, Georgia, all of us lost a very special young man. But most of all, his family has lost their dear son and brother, his wife has lost her husband, and his young son will grow up without a father. There are lives changed forever now.
It has only been a few hours since his death, and still all I can think is that I’m so sorry. I’ll never forget the young man who came out of Gaza in December of 2019, and whose body was returned there today.