I have no pictures to show you of the past week's events other than the ones I can paint with my words..... yet words will not convey what the past week has held. I will share with you some of my experiences and impressions about them as best I can. If I can make one overarching comment about it, I will say that our God is the God of ALL, in every way, in all of the joys and all of the sorrows.
As you know, Karim did not survive the doctors' third attempt at heart surgery. When we found out this news, we were stunned but immediately began to do everything we could to help Karim's mother, and to deal with the many details involved in moving the body. She was hysterical in her grief. I was so thankful I was not there alone, but had Keleigh and Alex to help - it took all of us to manage everything happening - and that our Kurdish translator could speak the heart language of this mourning woman and help her understand, release her grief, and yet keep a bit of control over her display of emotions.
We went back to Haifa where Pastor Philip and his congregation had met Karim and his mother when they'd arrived, and who Karim's mom had called often, including earlier that day before Karim's surgery. At this point in time however, there was only bitter grief in her heart, and she was not able to receive any consolation from anyone. The mothers with whom she'd travelled from Iraq and Amman into Israel were all reminders of her emptiness since their children were still living and hers was not. One of the mothers came espcially to comfort her, but she sent her away, even cursing her in her blind grief. Since it was impossible for the women to share an apartment under these conditions, it was a blessing that the family in the adjacent building, with whom Karim's mother had become friends before Karim was moved to Tel Aviv, invited her to their home for the night. She seemed calmed there, although she was inconsolable. We left her there after seeing that she had someone to sit with her through the night, and from whom she would receive comfort, and we drove back to Jerusalem.
After some much-needed sleep, we all worked together on how to plan the travel back to Iraq. There were so many details to be worked out in all three countries involved, and it took many calls and lots of teamwork to manage them. Again I praise God for His body of brothers and sisters connected by our love for Him. I prepared to go back to Haifa to be the escort to Amman, and left in late afternoon on the bus. Pastor Philip, his wife and one of their sons met me at the bus station. We went straight to the apartment where Karim's mother was staying, and when she saw me, Philip and I became a target for the anger of her disappointment. We all talked with her and settled her with prayer, and it was decided that it would not be helpful for me to stay with her that night since the family she was with wanted to continue to have her in their home. God provided me the opportunity to stay with Pastor Philip's family instead.
When we left Karim's mother, we went across to the apartment where Lozan and Kale are staying. It was my first opportunity to meet these families , and I was struck by the contrast of the situations and circumstances I was experiencing. God was present and aware of every detail ... I began to hear Romans 11:33-36 going through my head:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments,and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things.
Although sad about Karim's death, and grieving with his mother, here in this apartment one of the mothers went to get some worship songbooks so we could sing together in praise to the Lord. She was rightly expressing her thanksgiving for her daughter's successful surgery. After the excruciatingly intense and painful events of the previous days, this was such an encouragement to me.
It was decided that since my presence had caused Karim's mother to have such a strong reaction the night before, I would accompany Kale and Lozan to their hospital check-ups on Thursday morning. As I went with Pastor Philip and these ladies and daughters, I had another blessing in the midst of the struggles of the week - I got to see Sana again! She and her mother came into the waiting room for Sana's tests after dismissal, and we were all delighted to see one another. After just a little while it was time for me to go to the apartment and join Karim's mom as we began what I have called the long funeral procession home. We had gotten all the paperwork done so that the body could leave Israel and enter Jordan, and were meeting the ambulance at the crossing. I knew this would be a very difficult time of "reunion," and wondered if there would be a repeat of the violent grief shown at the hospital. When she understood that it was time to go, and that Karim would be waiting for us at the border, she left the home of her friends without a fuss, through great physical effort because of her sadness. The rest of our trip was filled with weeping and mourning songs.... and we wept with her along the way as she expressed her broken heart.
When we arrived at the border, everything had been done to help us get through as easily as possible. I am so thankful for the relationships we have on both sides now which allowed the maximum amount of compassion to be shown to this woman in her hour of need. The authorities made the decision to allow the transfer of the body within the border of Israel, so it was in the back of the ambulance that she was reunited with her son's body. Although I had been concerned that she would collapse again, she instead was comforted by being there with him. We rode together up to Amman; Karim's mother and his body, Keleigh, Fred and me, and a Red Crescent driver and assistant.
Since all of our usual accommodations in Amman were filled with patients awaiting transfer to Israel, or going home after successful surgery, we did not have a plan for where we might stay, but knew that God did have a place for us. Our planning had to be spontaneous based on the legal issues involving moving the body, so we continued turning to God with our requests and trusted Him to work. We were reminded of a contact we'd made just a few days before who had connections in Amman, and asked him about a place to stay. After only a few hours we were blessed with a lovely apartment and two new friends in Christ who opened their home to us when we arrived on Thursday evening.
Because there are no flights from Amman on Friday, the sabbath there, we had a little extra time for the details of travel into Iraq, yet the sabbath also meant that government offices were closed. We again didn't know how God would work things together, but found that the network of officials needed in such circumstances were willing to help us as much as possible even on the sabbath, and we were hopeful that we could indeed fly out on Saturday morning to Iraq. Karim's mother rested on Friday while we handled the details needed and purchased a ticket for my travel after it was decided I would be the one to accompany her home. Her prior anger expressed toward me evaporated as her grieving process continued, and she didn't want me out of her sight. It took all three of the Shevet volunteers on the ground to manage everything, and our hosts made us feel at home throughout the process, which was a blessing.
On Saturday morning, Diyka Karim seemed to enter a different phase of grief as she prepared to go home. She was more subdued and was weeping instead of wailing. When we arrived at the airport, as soon as we entered the terminal to await the flight, God blessed us with a family sitting beside Karim's mother who spoke English and were going to the same city we were. God reminded me of the many times we'd brought mothers and children to the airport and found families for them to talk with and be looked out for as they returned to their respective cities.... and now He was doing the same for us as we were the ones flying and needing help. What a wonderful Lord we serve! Little did I realize how vital the man's help would be. He translated and even accompanied the airport officials once we arrived in Iraq to help with the release of the body there. His wife was able to be a special comfort to Karim's mother as I needed to focus on some of the details of travelling this final leg of the journey, with Keleigh and Fred's assistance. Truly, without teamwork and all those God brought alongside us, we could not have done all that was required. But our God is a defender of the widow and near to the brokenhearted, and helped us all the way.
After a flight punctuated by mourning songs on the plane, and the compassionate assistance of the airline staff, we arrived at our city. The family God brought alongside remained with me and Karim's mother until the body was cleared to leave the airport grounds and be turned over to the family. It was at that time that the family ran towards the airport vehicle and surrounded the casket with weeping and wailing, and I was quickly escorted away to join some of our connections here who are my hosts. It was here that I experienced another of the extreme contrasts of the week... leaving a place of heavy mourning which surrounded that vehicle, and stepping into a group of encouragers who were there to provide for and comfort me, while praise music filled their vehicle. Truly our God is the God of all.
My host here went to the funeral in Karim's family's city on Sunday. His body was buried immediately upon arrival there, but the funeral itself is still ongoing, lasting for three days. I have had them on my heart continuously, and am thankful for every prayer that has been spoken for them, and for us as we've ministered to them. Even in the intensity of the past week, God has blessed me greatly in this experience. I will share the many ways He has also allowed me to rejoice with those who rejoice, in a separate blog. Thank you for all of your prayers.
We visited Karim in the hospital today to help comfort his mother. Karim is having a difficult time recuperating after his surgery. His blood pressure is dangerously low and his heart is having a hard time pumping his blood after the surgery. One of the Iraqi mothers who speaks Kurdish was with us, and was doing her best to comfort Karim's mother.
Shortly after we arrived Karim went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. One of the doctors leaving several hours later seemed to say that Karim was stable, but the look on his face told a different story, and we did not hear anything from the doctors after that.
We did our best to tell the mother that her son was going through a difficult time without telling her how grave the situation was, but the mother's intuition had her on the floor in tears, praying that her son would be restored.
Please pray that Karim is able to make a full recovery. He is in a big fight right now. Pray also for the health and comfort of his mother who is so alone at the hospital--no one there speaks her language and the other mothers have their own children to worry about as well.
We have no new pictures to include this time, because we were not even allowed to enter the ICU. But by clicking the play arrow below you may see a brief video of the mother's bedside vigil taken late Wednesday night.
We were able to speak with Karim's doctors yesterday. They informed us that his condition is continually shifting from stable to unstable. Karim's heart is not strong enough to pump blood to his entire body and is beating irregularly. In addition, he has acquired some type of infection and fluid in his lungs. The doctors have asked the head of cardiology if there is anything more that can be done to help improve his condition, but they were informed that all has been done.
Karim's mother has been comforted by another mother from Gaza whose child is also in the hospital; however, that mother is scheduled to return to Gaza today, leaving Karim's mother all alone. Yesterday we were able to spend a few hours with her, but she was still very upset when we left.
Please continue to pray for Karim's overall recovery and his mother's isolation. Pray that God would send someone to comfort her and help her carry this burden.