I stood outside the nursery window, watching Greis caress her frail little baby boy Rafi Zakkari. Zak raised his feeble left arm in response, as if wanting to reach out and touch his mommy’s hand. But he couldn’t. He could only lift his arm by half an inch.
I have seen this scene a few times before — and each time would stuff a big lump in my throat as I try to hold back a well of tears.
My mind is tortured by thoughts of what this family must be going through, especially little Zak. Being in bed sick for a day can already suck the life out of me, and this made me think of how much of a wuss I am. Here is Zak, going on two months straight in his tiny hospital bed, respirator in mouth. Both his arms are blue with the countless syringes that would be stuck to him from time to time for his antibiotics. His color is indescribable from the numerous blood transfusions he had gone through. Heaven knows how much more he will have to take. And yet, this boy, like his mom and his older brother Kai, is as strong as a warrior. I can’t help but cheer him on from afar, hoping that he can at least feel my energy through the nursery ICU window.
His cries emit very faint sounds, but they are the most deafening quiet sounds I ever heard. They only magnified his suffering. I wanted to shout right there where I stood just to release my moment of weakness for this boy. Were it not for the noisy interns hovering at my back, I would have broken down and given in.
In previous days, Greis never failed to show me photos and videos of Zak that she took from her cellphone. I wanted to ask her to stop because I couldn’t bear to look at Zak’s skin and bones body, hollow cheeks, and sullen eyes. I knew I had to at least pretend to not mind it at all because my best friend needs to draw strength from anyone who would listen and give her encouragement to fight for her baby. So I endured. Shame on me.
But that day, on the afternoon of January 21, I felt different. I wanted to actually go inside the nursery ICU so I could touch Zak. Caress him and sing to him. Kiss him. Something overwhelmed me and I couldn’t explain it. And when Greis showed me his latest photos and videos, I saw a beautiful boy beyond the physically battered body. When I told Greis he was “gwapo”, I was amazed by the fact that I actually meant it.
If you’re reading this, Greis, I’m sorry for the way I felt before when I look at Zak’s images. I wasn’t as strong as you are. I don’t think I will ever be a mom myself, but I should thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you. I will continue praying for Zak, Kai, you, and even Max. This time, I will include in my prayers my gratitude for having you in my life. For making you an instrument in showing me the value of faith — of not giving up on my loved ones.