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"While there's life, there's hope"
Life is full of surprises, and sometimes the most vulnerable and helpless among us are also the most resilient.
Early this week, deadly earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria. The death toll is approaching 20,000, and hundreds and thousands of people are still buried under debris amid freezing temperatures. Aid organizations estimate as many as 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, are affected. It will be remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in human history.
When something so tragic and with such magnitude occurs, we often find ourselves filled with despair. We are reminded of the fragility of life and can't help asking questions such as, "Why did such a tragedy happen?;" "Where is God's mercy?" and "What is the point of life when we are so hopeless and vulnerable, and nothing is under our control?" Maybe you don't ask these questions because you have already figured everything out. Or, you are too busy with your own life, and what happened in a place far away doesn't concern you as much. I couldn't stop asking these questions after losing my son and daughter. After learning about this week's earthquakes and those horrific statistics, I asked these questions again.
Then I heard of a story out of Jindayris, Syria. According to the Daily Mail, "Jindayris was seized by Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies in a 2018 offensive that drove Kurdish forces from the Afrin region. Cut off from government-held territory, the region depends heavily on aid from Turkey." Many residents of Jinderis were war refugees and had already suffered plenty before the earthquakes hit their town.
The Daily Mail reported that a pregnant woman went into labor shortly after the earthquakes turned the four-story building in which the family lived into piles of debris. While rescuers dug through rubbles with their bare hands, they heard faint cries. To their amazement, they found an infant girl who is alive and still attached to her dead mother by the umbilical cord.
The baby girl was rushed to a hospital by one of her uncles. A doctor said she "had several bruises and lacerations over all her body" and "hypothermia because of the harsh cold." After timely treatment, the baby girl's condition has stabilized, and it looks like she will go on living as a healthy child. The hospital staffs call her Aya, which means "miracle" in Arabic. While Aya's condition improved, rescuers found the bodies of Aya's father, Abdullah, mother, Afraa, four siblings, and an aunt, under the same piles of rubbles where they discovered Aya.
Aya, the family's newest member, is also the family's sole survivor.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Aya and her incredible mother, Afraa. Giving birth is a physically demanding and emotionally taxing experience, and a woman often feels powerful and vulnerable simultaneously. I couldn’t imagine what Afraa must have gone through as the world she knew suddenly crumbled around her and turned dark and cold, and no one was there to comfort her or hold her hands and say, “Just breathe.” Besides the pain of giving birth, she was probably hurt by bricks and mortars falling over her. But undoubtedly, her determination to bring a new life to this world and strong will to help her daughter live regardless of circumstances ensured Aya’s survival. No earthquake is mightier than a mother’s love for her child.
Libby Purves of the Daily Mail wrote, "Nothing so powerfully illustrates the awesome fortitude of mothers than the dying woman who gave birth in the rubble.” Through her final effort, Afraa defined what courage, bravery, and unconditional love truly meant.
Aya must have inherited her mother's unyielding will and determination. After arriving in this new and strange world and being surrounded by cold, darkness, and death, she survived. Life is full of surprises, and sometimes the most vulnerable and helpless among us are also the most resilient. In the bleakest moment, humanity shines the brightest.
A day after Aya’s rescue, the world learned that in Turkey, a 10-day-old baby boy Yagiz, who spent half of his young life under rubble, and his mother were rescued.
“Where there’s life, there’s hope.” I hope Aya and Yagiz live long and fruitful lives.
We may never understand why tragedies happened in our personal lives or why disasters like earthquakes took place and resulted in so many losses and suffering. I do believe Aya's miraculous survival is God's mercy. It is his way of showing us that all is not lost and hope always rises when a new life begins.
"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible."