A Tale of Two Fathers

by Dorothy Wells

Two Pakistani-born fathers left their homes with hopes and expectations.

One father, Shahzada Dawood, planned an adventure with his son, as they and three others traveled to visit the remains of the Titanic, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland. Shahzada and his son, Suleman, British citizens, were on an excursion of the wealthy.

Another, Thaer Khalid al-Rahal, also took to the sea, too. Thaer and his family had been displaced during the Syrian conflict and had been living in a Jordanian refugee camp. His 4-year-old son is suffering from leukemia and needs medical help – help his father could not afford. He was traveling with great hope, too, that if only he could get to Europe, find work, earn money, and find doctors, it might not be too late to save his son.

Two fathers took to the sea, with hopes for themselves and their sons.

One father died at sea with his son after having spent half a million dollars for the two to share an experience they’d certainly remember for a lifetime. 

The other father died having given all that he had to a smuggler so he could board an overcrowded and doomed fishing trawler making its way across the Mediterranean. His young son back home wondered with each passing day why no one had heard from his father.

Tremendous relief efforts were poured into finding one father, his son and three other adventurers. Their names, their stories were made public.

The other father died with hundreds of other migrants, all of them dreaming of employment opportunities and the chance at a life they wouldn’t otherwise know. Many of the estimated 750 who boarded the boat never made it out of the sinking boat. Months may pass before those who died are identified; their names and stories may never be known. 

A tale of two fathers, whose souls we entrust to our God: the Creator in whose image and likeness all humankind is made, the Creator of the wealthy and the poor, the Creator of the sick and the suffering, the Creator of land and sea, the Creator who is with us in the heights of the heavens or in the depths of the sea.

As we entrust these souls to God, we pray for peace, comfort and healing for all of the families who have been affected in both of these disasters. And, we pray that in this moment, rather than turning our collective global heads, we ask how God calls humankind to be a source of aid for the desperate circumstances that lead people to migrate to other lands. We remember when Jacob’s family migrated to Egypt as famine struck, when Elimelech and Naomi migrated from Bethlehem to a potentially hostile place called Moab because there was no food, and when Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod’s bloody and murderous search for the true King. We remember, too, when God commanded us to care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner – the most vulnerable persons. 

No one who died in either of these two disasters – or any others – died without being known by our God, who surely knew every fiber of their being and whose love for us all is immeasurable. The question for us is whether we can love our neighbors as God intended and commanded.

Psalm 139:1-12

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

   you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

   and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

   O Lord, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before,

   and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

   it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?

   Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning

   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

   and your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,

   and the light around me become night’,

even the darkness is not dark to you;

   the night is as bright as the day,

   for darkness is as light to you.



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