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Zahala San Simone

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A Day Of Great Joy...And Pain
by Zahala San Simone   
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, November 13, 2006
Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2006

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Today, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in the 1982 massacre of Shiite muslims in Iraq.

One of the most ironic situations we face as humans is when a conviction results in death. It just seems to me that it’s a day of extreme opposites—great sadness and great joy.

I know, I know--some people are beyond redemption, and death’s the only way to stop them from their monstrous behavior. It’s a way to set them free from a tormented existence, which they cannot stop themselves from perpetrating onto others.

Still it’s sad to see it when it happens, because a death sentence means that a tragedy of enormous proportions has transpired. A lot of innocent people have been wronged.

Today, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in the 1982 massacre of Shiite muslims in Iraq.

I am no Saddam fan by any means. I think he’s guilty of heinous crimes against humanity, and one of the cruelest leaders to ever rule a country. Even his eyes say to me, “I am insane”.

And, I think the sentence was appropriate. It was evident even to me, half a world away, that Saddam had a potent disrespect for human life—particularly those of his enemies.

Still, my guess would be that for those who've lost a loved one to his terror, it’s a bittersweet day. For them, it’s probably a time for deep contemplation about redemption, forgiveness and justice. You see, if you’ve ever lost someone unjustly, you know the resulting pain you live with. For most of us, that pain is expressed as anger—why our loved one? And, when you know who the murderer is, some of the hope for relieving the anguish is seeing that criminal punished for your loss.

So, I’m sure that there is a great deal of relief today in many parts of Iraq. Saddam will suffer the ultimate penalty for his crimes.

But, if they’re anything like the rest of us, once they’ve calmed down, they will realize an inescapable fact—the families of those he murdered still suffered more. Their loved ones remain dead.

The Iraqis are fortunate though. At least, they had an enemy they could prosecute...

Many of us are not that lucky.

The closest person to me who ever died was my father. I remember watching him suffer with colon cancer, and seeing him shrink into a mere shell of what he had been. I recall him mentally struggling to accept his fatal diagnosis, and after he did so, his insistence on telling my mother and I about things ‘we needed to know’ after he was gone.

That angered us because we wanted him to focus on getting better. We couldn’t give up--more for ourselves than for him. It was just so unfair.

I also remember how we missed his words, after he slipped into a coma. We sat, hopeful yet helpless, watching him fade away.

Minutes after he died, I became quite angry with God for not healing him—and I told Him so. I thought He was wrong to let him be consumed by disease—one that I knew would be no problem for Him to heal, if He had wanted to. I explained to God that my mother, my son and I needed my father much more than He did—and stood there looking at his still-warm corpse, waiting for a miracle. Nothing happened.

I was so disgusted that I wanted to throw the Bible I had in my hand into the trash. In my opinion, it was full of words that meant nothing—because when I needed them most, they had failed me. There were two nurses and I in that hospice room on that horrible day, and they were both sobbing. I remember thinking that I had to get out there—the walls were closing in on me fast. I needed space to think of how I would communicate this tragedy to the rest of my family.

I stepped outside, and saw a vision of my father standing in front of me in a white robe with a gold crown of leaves on his head. He was his old self, and completely joyous. He said to me, “I’m free! I’m free!” I took a Kleenex from my purse, and wiped tears from my eyes.

They weren’t tears of joy though. I felt no joy—for myself or for him.

As I watched, he kept repeating the same phrase—I’m free. Finally, I said to him, “I’m glad for you, but look at how you’ve left us. We are deeply saddened by your passing.” Then, he stopped speaking. He just stood there for a few more moments, beaming happily, and clearly wanting me to see him in this form. I looked, until he disappeared, and then went about the grim duties that awaited me.

It took a few years for my tears to stop falling intermittently, and for me to finally understand the most wonderful gift he gave me that day--he confirmed for me that there is life after death, and, if we’re fortunate, we’ll get the good side of that life.

That’s why I see the Iraqis as truly fortunate on this day. You see, every time I looked for someone to blame, I was faced with God—all powerful, all knowing and almighty. To blame Him was pointless—a battle I couldn’t win. In the end though, the facts from my father’s medical records told the true story--God had warned him for many years that something was wrong. He knew it. He was untrusting of doctors and hospitals though, so he chose to ignore it.

He lived long enough to regret that choice.

Now that Saddam’s days are officially numbered, the families of his victims can begin to close their wounds. They were able to fight against the murderer among them, and they saw justice go forth.

If only we could be so fortunate with cancer…

In any case, this is the just the beginning of the healing for the Iraqi people, because my understanding is that Saddam’s murderous streak was so widespread, almost every household in Iraq knew, or knew of, someone who was slaughtered by his sword. And, those of us who have lost someone dear can relate to death’s aftermath--there’s always something that reminds you, every now and then, of that departed loved one, causing the tears to fall anew…

That is, until that one day comes when you finally understand that special message they left for you, and you realize that it was their way of telling you to get over it--that all is well with them. They’ve gone on to bigger and better things…

And that’s the day when the anger finally goes away, your heart beats without pain, and your smile becomes truly joyful again.

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