Something beautiful for God [Archives:2003/01/Culture]

January 6 2003

The view from here
by Jamil Abdul Karim
[email protected]
One barely knows where to start regarding the terribly sad news about the three Americans slain in Jibla on Monday.
The jarring news of how an extremist burst into of all places a hospital room to shoot these three has left a heavy imprint on many people.
The victims were by all accounts remarkable people.
Hospital administrator Bill Koehn, 60, at Jibla for 28 years, maintained he would stop work than be re-assigned by his employer to America or England. He clearly loved the Yemeni. His hobbies included carving toys and little wooden figurines of Yemeni people.
Victim Kathy Gariety, Jibla’s purchasing agent, also loved the Yemeni community. “I’ve been so blessed by this hospital, and I just want to bless this place,” is what she told co-workers at a recent gathering.
It was ob-gyn Dr. Martha Myers, 57, who many Yemeni knew best. Martha’s community involvement included helping Yemeni people with disease prevention and clean water projects.
But her love for the Yemeni went far beyond such work duties. The door to her home was always open. If a Yemeni needed food, she helped get it on the table. If they needed money, she gave up her salary. Her well of goodwill seemed to never run dry.
For such uncommon commitment to the people they served these three were thanked in an incredibly brutal fashion.
Beyond that, however, a couple of other things strike me.
Certainly Yemen’s expatriate community has felt overwhelming grief this week. But what’s also been obvious is the genuine sadness of so many Yemeni. It seems Yemeni near Jibla in particular have been deeply touched.
They were so moved that hundreds lined up outside the gates of the hospital at their funeral to see a glimpse of their fondly loved friends.
The following day, when remaining American and foreign staff left the hospital, hundreds of Yemeni were present again to give their respect to their friends.
“She was so sincere to our people,” is what one Yemeni told me about Martha. I’m told her name is already legendary in villages and qat chews.
This Yemeni, who is now in his 30s, also tells me he owes his life to Jibla hospital. He was three years old when his mother brought him to the facility. There he stayed for 20 days while the caring staff doctored him from near death back to health.
“My mother told me about Jibla many times,” he said. “It was amazing. I was about to die, but I lived with their help and with the grace of God.”
Indeed, as the hospital’s future is now unclear, a tremendous healing facility may be lost.
The other thing we shouldn’t forget is that while murder is always a terrible thing, these three people were honoured in their deaths. They lived sacrificially and they died sacrificially. They died how they lived, and they died doing what they loved.
As one friend put it, “They died happy and joyful.”
This won’t make the pain go away. It won’t make their friends miss them any less. But this helps give perspective. We will all die sometime. What will you leave behind?
It’s been said the blood of martyrs are always the seeds of something new. People in this part of the world can relate to this when thinking of, for example, Palestine. How much more precious then is the blood of those who lay down their lives while living in the land of their foreign friends?
This is the example that Bill and Kathy and Martha have shown us. In doing so, it’s their wish, I believe, that Yemeni and non-Yemeni alike would understand why: that in the end love is stronger than death.
This is the reminder these three have given Yemen and now the world. They’re not the first. They won’t be the last. But at this time their message is uniquely ours. Let’s not forget it, lest we trample what is something beautiful for God.