The following is from the first draft of a book that I published in 2010; the published included a modified version of this chapter.
In the story – Ahmad and George are Lebanese working in Saudi Arabia
“Ring ring … ring ring …
Who is calling at this time – George reached out of bed fumbling his hand in the dark trying to find the phone. Hellllo
No one answered on the other side but George could hear someone sobbing and crying. He opened his eyes and looked at the telephone – it is home, his parent number.
Hello, hello what is happening and who is talking?
George, I am sorry … I am sorry …. Dad just passed away. He had a severe stroke and we lost him on the way to the hospital. It was George sister Cham on the phone
George was shocked and by now Ahmad has awaken and in the room as well.
What is going on George?
Dad … dad had a stroke and he is gone. OK Cham we will be home on the first flight. George hangs up holding back his tears and choking voice
The brothers quickly got their cloth together, called the office emergency number for their passports, and waited for the morning to get a flight. Fortunately, there was a flight around noon and early evening they were with the family.
They arrived home to find the relatives in an emotional debate. How to handle the funeral? Ahmad and George family is quite unique in a culture where religion is a very important fabric of life, even in a funeral.
Their father is Moslem, their mother is Christian and the family was raised with tolerances to all, which was a challenge in the community. Ahmad and George were always teased about their names but their belief in equality, which was the way they were raised and which was represented via their names, empowered them to deal with diversity.
No one thought about the moment. Despite their religious tolerances, they were upset with the system that even in death it separates people. The questions were, should they pray on their father soul in the church in addition to the mosque? Where would he be buried? If we bury him in the Moslem burial ground, where can we bury our mother as a Christian?
This time Ahmad was the spontaneous one – he quickly said:
Enough – our parents have never let us feel the difference between Islam and Christianity; no difference between a mosque and a church. He lived his life respecting all and all we ask now is for them, the clergy, to respect him back. We will start in our village in the church, if we cannot get him inside the church, we will pray for his soul in the outer hall. Then we take him to Tripoli to the mosque near the family burial ground. We will pray there again and rest him to peace next to his elders. It is as easy as this and I truly wish that if 5% of the people of this country live the way our parents did and raise their families the way our parent did raise us, we would not have seen too many civil wars and religious strife.
Dad, you were a role model for many and we will not say good bye to you except in a way to represent your life and the lives you gave us. Your name will live in our town, in our church, and in the mosque and we hope that your death will bring our community together, even if it was just for a short time or a start.
After listening to Ahmad, many were in tears and no one could reject his request. The arrangements were made quickly and exactly as Ahmad said, the funeral procession started from-the house to the village church where most of the community came-by to say farewell. Then to the waiting cars for the 30 minutes’ drive to Tripoli for noon prayer and burial.
Rest in peace Abu Ahmad; may your legacy live forever.”