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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)

TITLE: A Heavenly Gift
By Petra van der Zande


We believed that also our fourth foster child was sent by our Heavenly Father.
Na’il’s first two years had left him like an empty ‘piece’ of meat, and aged three, his development was like a baby of 3-4 months.

In a way he experienced a ‘rebirth’ when he came to live with us, and we prayed the verse from Joel over his life, that the Lord would restore the years the locusts had eaten.

Na’il was like a little flower opening towards the sunlight, and his life changed for the better: he went to school, learned to sit, began to smile and laugh and above all: enjoy life!

He was born with a combination of a rare syndrome that caused him to be very thin, he had no shoulders and strange facial features. We too had experienced a jolt the first time we saw him, but immediately after, saw the precious soul of a child in need of love behind the handicaps. He was such a precious boy, curious, active, but also thoughtful. Being deaf and unable to walk, he found ways to communicate his needs, and gradually we learned to ‘read’ him.

He loved doctors and dentists, and each time we visited the hospital he brought laughter and merriment to the medical staff by being such an enthusiastic and cooperative patient.
We always joked that, besides his syndrome, Na’il was a healthy boy, for besides suffering from a bug once in a while, he was hardly ever sick.

Na’il’s biological parents couldn’t have given him a better name, for Na’il meant acquirer. He lived up to that, for he was an auto-didact. Professionals working with him learned to give him the tools, and he would proceed in his own way, at his own time, and thus Na’il learned to walk, via the ramp in the swimming pool. He amazed the medical world, and each and everyone who worked with him, loved him deeply.
We too, and probably because of his deafness, he and I communicated on a deeper, intuitive level, which was very precious to me.

For 12 intensive years we had the privilege to see him blossom and thrive, enjoy life to the full. He refused solid food, only wanted formula, and even though small for his 14 years, and only weighing 17 kilo’s, he had enough energy to get into mischief.

And then, one day, he became sick with what we thought to be the flu. A few days later his health deteriorated to such extent we ended up in hospital.
12 hours later my husband and I returned home, bereaved. Numb with shock from the sudden death of our beloved little boy, which felt like an amputation. According to the doctor he died from an emboli in his small intestines.

Israelis thought it special that we, as a Christian family, wanted to sit a Jewish shiva for a Muslim boy. The outpouring of love and encouragement we experienced turned those seven days (Sheva) into a week full of blessings.
Mourning is a legitimate experience in Israel, and people didn’t raise their eyebrows when I burst into tears while trying to relate to them what happened. They hugged me and understood.

Grateful Na’il didn’t have to suffer, we tried to get a grip on our completely altered daily rhythm, which always evolved around Na’il’s needs and care.

It takes time to mourn, and I learned to go with the flow, to accept the feeling of empty arms, the longing to cuddle my little boy one more time, to stroke his short cropped silver colored hair, to kiss his soft forehead.
It still feels strange we suddenly have time to ‘relax’, even plan a holiday.

God did restore Na’il’s barren years.
We were blessed to hear how this very special child, just by being himself, was able to touch ‘healthy’ people, taught them about patience, pertinacity, problem-solving.

Na’il was a true hero, who lived in a deformed little body, with a crooked spine that must have caused him much comfort. He never complained, always woke up in a good mood, and was a child who even looked after the needs of others.

“Of blessed memory”, the Jewish people always add to a name after someone dies. We are sustained by the many blessed memories we have of this very special child, we perceived as a Heavenly Gift, to be loved and cared for, for as long as the Lord deemed fit.

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