Ahmed may not have been the most sophisticated young man there ever was. In fact, he had been quite the playful, inattentive one in class. He didn’t turn out to be the first doctor in the family, but he did make it to university. What was special about him, though, was his sense of humour. There was nothing in the world he couldn’t make a joke of and laugh about even the worst ordeals he had to encounter. A few years back, for example, when his father had died, the sixteen-year-old Ahmed could find ways to find humour in the small details of the burial or the food they offered just to cheer his mother up. The crying was done in his small room while his little brother slept away.
His mother found in him the man of the house and the shoulder she could cry on. Of course she loved all of her children equally, but Ahmed had the small chamber in her heart where no one could come in. He made sure her simple needs were met. Every Eid he took her shopping because his father’s habit of pampering her was not to be broken. All her begging for him to get something new for himself, the university boy, were in vain.
That Friday morning, though, she felt like breaking his leg so he would stay home. Things were getting more and more dangerous in the mosque and on the streets of Hamah. He insisted, however, on going out there. And she knew. She knew that there was no stopping him. Not only did he have the irresistible sense of humour, but also the strongest will.
-”Mama, please, nothing will happen to me” he begged gently, “plus, you know that no one dies before his time.”
Ahmed’s mother ironed his shirt which she kept wetting with tears. It’s “the mother’s heart” they say that intuitively knows things. What if he gets arrested? What if he loses an eye or an arm? What if…what if he never comes back?
She could never understand that urge he had to go out and protest. Yes, they lived on a tight income but so did many other Syrians. They had their daily bread and cheese, which he earned, and they walked the streets in safety. She knew her son, though, he was a free soul. Ahmed never succumbed to unjustified commands, never gave up on his bullied friends and most importantly always put himself last. She had never tasted freedom herself. She spoke in hushed voices whenever she referred to the reason why her father was killed. She never experienced being respected as a valuable soul. She, like the vast majority of Syrian men and women, felt that she was owned by her rulers. One thing she knew for sure; man had no value in her country, and should keep to oneself.
Her tall, handsome son bowed to kiss her tired hand. She took him in her arms holding him for too long until he broke free gently. She knew he had made up his mind so all she could do while he was gone was pray. Clad in her white prayer wear, she held her rosary muttering prayers under her breath begging God to keep the apple of her eye safe.
Ahmed never came back. He was yet another young man irrigating his beloved city’s streets with his hot blood. He left without quite seeing his country free and full of dignity. He did feel, however, like a soaring bird for a few glorious minutes before being hunted down. He must have known that his life meant something and that he died so Syria would live.