As a pediatrician, watching enforcement of “zero tolerance” on children at our southern border has broken my heart. Every child needs safety and a sense of belonging. It defines who they are and shapes their perception of the world. For a young child, the loss of a parent is so devastating there can be no repair, only salvage of the wreckage.
It is in heartfelt gladness we should celebrate and remember my father, Dr. Saad Al-Agba. He knew the souls of the children for whom he cared would dwell in a future he would never see; yet, he accepted while he could not visit that tomorrow, even in his dreams, he could touch it in a small way through his connection with each and every one of us. He freely shared his tears and his smiles with so many and for that; I thank God from the bottom of my grieving heart.
After my father passed away, each child has grieved in their own way, sharing things about him they will miss most, while my four year old has only said “I am sad papa died, mommy.” Knowledgeable on the developmental capacity at the tender age of 4, I considered excluding my youngest from the graveside service last week on the presumption he didn’t “need’ to see a process which he could not place in a larger context. That decision would have been short sighted. Instead, I asked my youngest child if he wanted to attend the service. He chose to go with all of us to the cemetery. It was a solemn affair and the children understood the significance of the occasion.
My dreams for this young boy from ten years ago were shattered into tiny little pieces. In my mind, at the tender age of seven, he had been a ball of clay ready to be molded into something beautiful. Instead, all hope had been extinguished from the young man who stood before me now. There was no sparkle in his eye; the devilish grin was all that remained of that innocent child I once knew.
Something that cannot be lost is almost 27 years of shared memories. His smile is indelibly imprinted on my brain, his laugh can be found tucked away deep inside my soul, and his infectious personality is intricately woven into each story I share. Preparing him for those job interviews, giving him advice about girls, and helping him clean his perpetually messy apartment are experiences to be cherished for the rest of my life.