The Christmas Present
Stephen A. Peterson
Christmas Eve 2003 was unusually cold for Husna Al-Khalidi. Coalition Military Service Personnel were everywhere in war torn Iraq. All of her concerns were put on hold as Husna struggled along a Baghdad street in the hope that someone would help her as she was about to give birth.
Just months before she could have depended upon her family, now they were either dead or taken prisoner by retreating Iraqi soldiers as traitors. Many Iraqis were suspicious of these invaders or any Iraqi observed being around the evil ones. Husna was one of these who her neighbors mistrusted as she was seen pleading with Americans to help her locate her husband.
Now desperate, anyone who would stop and help was sought. “Help! Please, somebody help me! Please!
An elderly woman approached. “I know who you are! I saw you talking to Americans. Why? I also heard you speaking in a strange language. Where did you learn it? Get away from me you monster! You’re evil!” As she spoke, she picked up a handful of stones.
Seeing her pick up the stones, Husna attempted to get away. Her condition worsening made it difficult to escape the force of the woman stone as it struck the crown of her head resulting in bleeding about her head. A second stone landed breaking her nose and further bleeding. It seemed she would die at the hand of this angry woman. For whatever reason she ceased hurling her remaining stones.
“Now leave before I kill you! You daughter of evil!”
Hurting and disappointed, Husna tore a small piece of her clothing, pressed it to her bleeding head, righted herself then continued to seek help. A flash of birth pain alerted her that time was running out.
“Maybe I can get some help from the foreigners. I will go to them.” Husna knew this was a dangerous act but what other option did she have. Although in terrible pain, she struggled to Coalition soldiers. After walking for more than 5 miles, she arrived at an American checkpoint. Barely able to speak, she desperately spoke to her dilemma to anxious soldiers afraid she might be armed with an explosive device.
“Help me! Help! Baby! Please!”
The soldiers reduced their suspiciousness once they noticed her bloodied head and enlarged abdomen. Calling headquarters, they hurried the desperate mother into their vehicle.
“Come on, Dylan, move out! Let’s go!”
Pushing Husna onto the vehicle, she screamed out in pain as her wounded head resumed bleeding. Bouncing along the read, the time of her baby’s birth could no longer be delayed. Screams of birth pain caused the driver to speed up.
“Hey, Dylan, its coming! What do I do?”
“What are you asking me for? I’ve never delivered a baby before. And I don’t know what you do with an Iraqi woman. I really don’t wanna touch her. These people may jump us and think we’re trying to take advantage of this woman.”
“We gotta do something. Her baby’s coming!”
“Do something, Al! I never did this either.”
“Well, here’s your practical experience. I’m driving so I can’t do anything. It’s all yours buddy! Good luck!”
While the soldiers debated, Husna screamed in excruciating pain and plead for help. There, in the back of an American military vehicle, her daughter, her first born was 17 minutes after 3:00 PM in the afternoon. Arriving at the American base camp, Husna was carefully placed in a stretcher then carried into the field hospital before a waiting medical team.
Assessing Husna’s condition, the team concluded she was in serious condition due to an enormous loss of blood as well as a lack of nutrition. Though told by the medical team of her condition, Husna realized this well before the announcement.
“Please, promise me, that you will take care of my daughter. I have no family. They are all dead. Please, give me your word and promise!”
“Yes, I will! I will!” responded Lieutenant McGuffee.
“Thank you.” With her final deep breath, Husna closed her eyes and slowly turned her head.
“Oh, my! What did I do? I made a promise I might not be able to keep,” she thought to herself. Lieutenant McGuffee immediately went to her Commander to inform him of her promise.
“Well, Lieutenant, we are going to have our work cut out for us. But I want you to know I’m with you. It’s hard to turn down a desperate, dying woman who just gave birth to a child. We’re gonna need a lot of prayer, too!”
“Don’t thank me just yet.”
“Sir, that’s really a cute kid. I’d really like to keep her.”
“She is. I got to see her.”
“With all due respect, sir, I’ve got to keep my word to the baby’s mother. I promised! I’ll do just anything to keep her!”
“I know you will, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant McGuffee did just that. She was able to keep the child. She named the baby, Faith. Through the years, Holly McGuffee told little Faith about her birth mother and the surrounding circumstances her birth.
On her 8th birthday, Faith came to Holly: “You’re the only mother I’ve ever known. Thank you for telling me about my real mother. Mom, I really want to visit the place where she lived and where I was born.”
“Faith, I hope you will be able to back to Iraq but right now things are really difficult and dangerous. We can talk some more about Iraq if you want.”
“I’m okay, mom. I can wait.”
“Happy Birthday! Get some rest so we can go Christmas mass to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday. Good night, Honey!
“Good night, mom!”
Faith to bed but she could not sleep soundly. Though very young, she was thankful for her deliverance and for a woman who truly loved her. After lying in bed for about 40 minutes, she got out of bed, slipped on her slippers and bathrobe then walked out the front door into the cold to experience what she thought her mother might have experienced.
Kneeling down tears came to her eyes. “Mother, I was told you walked many miles in the cold to give me life. You were bleeding and suffering along the way for me. My adopted mom told me your feet were badly injured and your head bleeding from being struck several times by stones. Mother, I will never forget your sacrifice and suffering for me. I will honor you and thank you all the days of my life.”
Holly recognized that Faith was no longer in her bed. Fearing something ill had happened to her, she called the sheriff’s office to report a missing child. Within a matter of minutes, the sheriff was on the scene to comfort Holly as well as begin a search for Faith. Calling out her name and well as receiving a response from the little girl, they were able to find her in less than 10 minutes
“Mom, I heard the voice of my birth mother. She’s here. I know it though I can’t see her but I know she’s here. I think she is really happy for me. She is thankful that you were there for her and me. Mom, I came out here to learn and know what she to go through to give me life.”
“I believe you Faith. Now you need to come inside. It’s really cold out here. You really scared me. So I called the sheriff to help find you. We’ll talk some more about your mom, okay. But right now you need to get some sleep.”
Faith was a model child who grew up to help others, sacrificed her life for many and influenced the lives of people in a positive manner. Faith’s story is reminiscent of the mother of Christ, Mary. On the first Christmas, Mary sacrificed her life in love for the Son. Then later would sacrificed HIS life for all humanity in unconditional love—two examples of willing sacrifice. Faith, through stories about her birth mother, learned what unconditional love entails. That unconditional love is selfless sacrifice as a loving mother often does to give life to her child and, in some instances, give up her life that her child may live. What a great loving Christmas present!
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