“Grandma, mommy is here,” said little Zahra, running towards the front door, as her mom opened the front door and stepped inside the house.
Malak caught her little daughter up in her arms, hugging and kissing her. “I’m sorry for being late, honey. You know that we are on emergency alert at the hospital.”
“Mommy, what’s wrong with your face?” asked little Zahra, looking at her mom’s face with concern.
Malak had a beautiful brown face, but her face looked weird to Zahra that day.
“I have to wear an n95 mask for long hours and it makes marks on my face.”
“God bless you, honey. You are my hero.” Malak’s mother said, joining the conversation.
“I went home first, to shower and change my clothes before coming here,” Malak told her mother.
Malak is a nurse and a single mom to her seven- year old daughter. These days are very hard for her and for all healthcare workers. There is a global emergency: the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 has engulfed the United States and the entire world in a pandemic.
Since the pandemic broke out, Malak has been leaving her daughter with her mom. Malak has been working long hours and has no control over her work schedule. Even more importantly, she doesn’t want to get her daughter or mother sick if she should contract the virus at work. To reduce the risks of infecting them, she visits them just once a week, despite it not being safe either.
“How is it going honey, why do you look sad?” Malak’s mother asked.
“It is getting worse day by day, mama.”
“God protects all of you honey. Be sure to take care of yourself. This country needs all you healthcare workers.”
“I’m trying, mama, but sometimes I feel desperate. You know what happened today?”
“What happened, honey?” asked her mom eagerly.
“We had a COVID-19 patient who wanted to say good-bye to her husband. She was seventy years old. She was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago, and she knew that she wouldn’t survive. She argued with me, saying, “there is no time left, just call them. I want to say goodbye to them.” I did what she asked, and she died six hours later.
“Stay strong, honey. You are lucky. God chose you for this position to be able to help people,” Malek’s mother tries to encourage her.
“I know, mama, but it’s painful. I feel useless when I see people dying before my eyes.”
“Death is our fate. We can’t escape it, neither can we stop it. All we can do is our best, and you did. So, don’t blame yourself.”
Zahra interrupted her mom and grandmother, saying, “Let’s go somewhere, mommy, you promised me. I feel bored being home all the time.”
“Where do you want to go, sweetheart? You know all the places are drive-thru or closed,” said Malak.
“Let’s get something from a drive-thru,” chimed Zahra.
Agreeing with Zahra, the three of them left the house and went to pick up something “to go” for dinner.
While they were driving back home, Malak’s mother said to her daughter, “you look tired, honey.”
“Yeah, mama, I’m exhausted.”
“Why don’t you sleep with us tonight.”
“I can’t, mama. My boss could call me at any time, and I don’t have my uniform with me.”
“Okay, try to get a good rest then,” said Malak’s mom.
Just then, Malak saw a flashing light and heard a siren. When she looked in the rear-view mirror, she noticed a police car coming up fast behind them. Immediately, she pulled over, rolled down the window, and stayed calmly in her seat.
The policeman walked up to her window and asked for her driver’s license and insurance. He also asked her, “Where are you going?”
“Home. We just got something for dinner. Now we are going back home.” She added, “May I ask why you stopped us?”
“I’m the one asking the questions. You be quiet,” he said
Malak was speechless. Immediately, she got upset.
The police officer went back to his car, taking her driver’s license and insurance with him.
After waiting more than 30 minutes for him to return, Malak got out of the car to find out what was going on. When the officer saw her get out of the car, he got out of his car. Pulling his gun, he directed it towards her shouting, “Get back in the car!”
Malak tried to ask him what was going on, but the police officer was furious. Suddenly, his finger pulled on the trigger of the gun and a shot went off.
Zahra and her grandma were terrified. Zahra began yelling and crying, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” They got out of the car and found Malak lying flat on the ground.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine, Zahra. I didn’t get hurt, mama,” said Malak gratefully. The bullet missed her when she ducked and dropped to the ground.
Malak stayed on the ground and held her hands up while yelling at the policeman. “I did nothing! I did nothing! I do not have a weapon! Why are you trying to kill me?”
“Get in the car!” shouted the policeman, pointing the gun towards them. They stood up slowly with their hands in the air and got back inside the car.
The policeman came up alongside Malak’s window. “Why did you get out of the car?” he shouted.
She answered with a question, “Why were you taking so long? I’m a nurse and I have to get home to sleep. Why did you shoot at me?”
“It is my job.”
“Your job is to kill innocent people?”
“How do I know you are innocent.”
“Did you see me holding a gun? What did I do?”
“You got out of the car; you are not supposed to do that.”
“Yes, I got out of the car because you made me wait more than half-an-hour. I was going to tell you that I can’t wait any longer.”
“Your driving wasn’t stable, are you a drunk?”
“I’m not a drunk, you can check that. I’m just tired.”
“If you are tired, don’t drive.”
“I don’t have a choice. Sometimes you do things even though you are not in the best condition to do them.”
The police officer gave her back the driver’s license and insurance and walked back to his car in a huff.
Zahra continued crying all the way back home. Her mom and grandmother tried to calm her down, but they couldn’t—she was in a panic, yelling, crying, and saying one thing repeatedly, “Please don’t kill my mommy.”
Back home, Malak reassured Zahra until she eventually relaxed and fell asleep. Malak’s mom tried to convince her to stay with them that night, but Malak reminded her why she couldn’t.
When Malak arrived home safely, she called her mom to let her know that she was fine.
“Thank you, Lord,” her mother said, and continued. Zahra has been traumatized. Her sleep is restless, and she is talking in her sleep repeating over and over, “please don’t kill mommy.”
For the next two weeks, Zahra didn’t feel well. She couldn’t sleep at night and was concerned about her mother. She asked to call her mom multiple times every day, and despite being busy, Malak always tried to pick up the phone and talk to her daughter from time to time.
One day, Malak was sleeping after a long shift at the hospital when her cellphone rang. She wouldn’t have taken it, but she saw it was the hospital’s number. Sitting up in bed, she answered the insistent ringing.
Within half an hour, she was driving back to the hospital. Her boss had told her that they needed additional staff because there had been a surge in COVID-19 patients that night.
When she got to the hospital, she quickly took the elevator to the fourth floor where the COVID-19 patients were being treated. After putting on an n95 mask, a face shield, protective gown, shoes and gloves, she began to do her job.
The third patient was in room number 443. When Malak approached the patient her heart almost stopped. “Oh my goodness, she gasped!”
The patient was a man in his forties. Although he was masked, she knew his eyes. He had wide blue eyes with a scar in his left eyebrow. She would never forget those eyes. He was the same guy. Yes, he was! She couldn’t be more sure about that.
“Oh, how destiny has played its role!” Malak whispered to herself. Finally, after realizing she had been standing still for minutes doing nothing, she examined the patient. He had a high fever and difficulty breathing. She requested a ventilator for him.
After finishing her duty to her patients for the day, Malak left the hospital. As soon as she got into her car, she called her mother.
“Hi mama, how are you and Zahra?”
“We are good honey, and yourself?”
“I’m ok, mama. You will never guess what happened today!”
“You remember that night, a month or so ago, when we had the policeman pulled us over.”
“Yes, honey, how could I forget that night?”
“Well mama, that very same police officer is my patient! He was admitted with COVID-19.”
“No! I can’t believe it!” exclaimed her mom into the phone.
“Yes mama, at first I couldn’t believe it either.”
“Are you sure, maybe it is someone who looks like him?”
“No mama, he is the same person. I don’t think I will ever forget his eyes.”
“Oh, my goodness, honey. What did you do?”
“When I saw him, I felt so angry. I hoped he would die.”
“No, my hero, don’t let hatred obstruct you from doing what you were born to do in this life.”
“I’m a human being, mama.”
“I know, honey, but now you have the choice to show God’s quality which is love, or to show the devil’s quality which is hatred.”
“Oh mama, must you always preach goodness?”
Malak hung up. She was still feeling anger and contempt towards her patient. When she went home, she took a shower and laid in her bed thinking about the policeman until she fell asleep.
Two days later, Malak was back in the hospital caring for her patient in room 443. While he didn’t recognize her, perhaps because of the mask and face shield covering most of her face or maybe he didn’t remember that night; she couldn’t forget that night—her heart was full of bitterness, and disdain for him.
“Do you hear me?” asked her patient in 443.
“Yes, yes. I do hear you.
“It seems you are deep in thought.”
“I’m sorry, can you repeat what you said?”
“I miss my family, my daughter.”
“How old is she?”
“She is 12-years old. Do you have kids?”
“Yes, I have a daughter, too. She is seven years old.”
Internally, Malak was debating whether to tell him or not, but retaliation got the better of her.
“Sir, are you a policeman?”
“Do you remember about a month ago when you stopped a lady on the highway, and you shot at her, but God protected her, and she didn’t get hurt?”
“I don’t remember. I see many people daily.”
“Do you shoot many people daily?”
“No, I mean I stop many people every day.”
“That night you shot at that lady because she got out of her car.”
After a while he said, “I remember that night. She said she was a nurse and . . .”
He couldn’t complete the sentence, turning his face away from her in shock.
“Yes, I was that lady,” she said before leaving the room.
The next day when she returned to the hospital, her coworker told her that the patient in 443 had been asking for her all day. Armed with this information, Malak started her rounds. Normally, she would go room by room, but she went to 443 first.
“Hello sir, how are you today?”
“I couldn’t sleep last night. It was as if that night was playing over and over in my mind all night long.”
“How do you feel today?” Malak tried to ignore him talking about that night.
“I don’t feel good, please forgive me.”
“Why did you do that to me? I understand I made a mistake by getting out of the car. I understand you were doing your job, but do you pull your gun? Was I threatening you? You could have killed me!”
He didn’t say anything, but his eyes filled with tears. When she saw him like that, she said, “I’m sorry. Calm down. You don’t have to be nervous.”
“I’m the one who should say I’m sorry.”
“Please sir, let’s stop talking about that issue.” Then, she left the room.
They never spoke about the incident again. In a few days, he was well enough to go home.
Three weeks later when Malak got home, she found a police car parked outside her house. Her heart skipped a beat. She parked her car in front of the gate hesitating whether to get out of the car. Cautiously, she got out of the car.
The same policeman who had shot at her and had been a COVID-19 patient was waiting for her and holding a bouquet of flowers. She was shocked!!
“Hi,” he said, with a big smile on his face.
“Hi,” Malak answered, with a skeptical look plastered over her face.
“How are you doing?” the police officer asked.
“I’m doing well. How are you?” asked Malak.
“I’m well. I was at home for two weeks after leaving the hospital. I just went back to work today.”
Before she could say anything else, he continued. “I’m here to say sorry about my bad behavior that night and to thank you for the good treatment in the hospital. You are a terrific nurse and an exceptional professional”
“Regarding what I did in the hospital, that was my job and I do that for everyone.”
“You could have reacted poorly towards me because of my malicious behavior that night, but you chose to be an angel and I am grateful.”
She looked at him and kept silent.
He continued, “I gave you viciousness and you gave me love. I gave you hardship and you gave me kindness. I fired a bullet at you, and you gave me care. I could have taken your life, and you saved my life.”
“Hatred makes us lose the meaning of life,” Malak said.
“You taught me, by love, that we can get over our bitterness and change ourselves. You taught me that hatred can destroy our souls even before destroying our societies.” he said.
“Yes, sometimes we need to find excuses for each other.” She said.
“I have blue eyes and you have beautiful brown eyes, but we still have the same red blood and we share the same society, country, and life. We need deep reconciliation. I know forgiveness is not an easy action. Can you forgive me?”
She said nothing, but he approached her, handed her the flowers and continued:
“From now on, no more bullets, but more love; no more nastiness, but affection. Let’s put hands in hands. Let’s heal our hearts together, let’s stand side by side.
She took the flowers and said, “Yes, let’s put hands in hand. Let’s be kind to each other. Let’s keep the blessing in this land.”