The Beautiful Life & Perfect Death of Father Davidson: Chapter 42

Father Davidson remained silent for some time before continuing his story. Someone threw a few more logs on the fire, and soon it was burning strong again. I had felt as though he might stop for the night, but with the added heat and light from the reawakened fire, he appeared to gain more energy and began once again; those of us listening around the campfire, settled happily into our chairs, for his next episode.

“You may have noticed,” the Father continued, “I’ve never named the three brothers. That is an interesting thing…I suppose kidnappers generally aren’t on a first name basis with their captives. Their grandfather had shared his name however…Ibrahim…the father of nations is its meaning. A good name…that is something that can make friends from enemies. So I took the grandfather’s inspiration, and shared my name with the youngest when he brought me food later that day.”

The boy placed the dish of food on the ground before me and turned to leave. “I’m Brother Seraphim!” I called out to him, before he left. He stopped and turned back to look at me, with a confused look on his face. He seemed to be startled that I confided this to him. “What’s your name?” I asked him. “Brother Seraphim,” I said again, tapping my chest, “…and your name?” I asked, pointing to him.

The young man looked sheepishly around himself, and back at the door, seemingly looking for permission to speak.

“Ibrahim, your grandfather, told me his name,” I reassured him, “…so I’m certain it is okay for you to tell me your name too.”

“Khalid.” He said flatly, before turning and hustling out of the shed.

Khalid, like many people, wanted to be known, so exchanging our names was the opening needed to allow a new kind of relationship; he and I were no longer strangers. But this was not the case with his older brother, who resented being known by someone like me—somebody he didn’t trust.

After sharing his name with me, Khalid returned often—for short spans of time at first, but then for longer periods, as we came to know each other better—and I taught him simple sentences, helping to improve his English. Several times he came also with his grandfather, and the three of us spent, sometimes, several hours talking, and laughing at our misunderstandings…or playing chess on a small and ancient board they brought with them.

But one evening the middle brother brought my meal, and as he turned to leave I called out his name—which Khalid had shared with me…”Qadir!” I called out.

He turned back towards me, wild eyed and angry, “What did you say?!”

“Qadir,” I repeated, more quietly this time. “I am Brother Seraphim. You are Qadir and I am glad to know you.”

But he was not glad to know me, and he yelled, “You don’t call me that! You don’t know me! Never!” He grabbed me, pulled me up, and then spit in my face, before throwing me back against the wall. “Never again!” He warned. He was insulting, but I wasn’t insulted.

“I am Brother Seraphim,” I repeated once again while assessing his expression, wondering if I could name him again and possibly break through his veneer of anger, or would it only antagonize him further. I decided to leave it alone; so I sat back down, wiping his spit from my face. He slammed the door shut and I heard him bolt it behind him.

I saw neither Qadir, nor his younger brother, or grandfather again for nearly a week. Only the oldest brother came to bring my meals. Aariz was his name—Khalid had also shared that with me. One afternoon I asked Aariz, finally, what their plan was for me. Lent was soon to be over and I hoped to return to the monastery for Holy Week, as Father Lazarus had instructed me. I suspected by now that they had no plan, and his hesitation to answer confirmed this to me.

“You know Aariz,” I said with kindness, “I want to help you. I want to return your father to you…but I don’t think you can force this. I don’t think there is a way forward…for you to manipulate, or demand his return.” It appeared that he agreed with me, but he said nothing.

He left quietly and slowly closed the door, locking it behind him.

Several days passed and then one evening Khalid opened the door and motioned to me to get up and follow him. We walked together through the sparse olive grove; he led me into their home, to a table in the kitchen, where his grandfather sat. The old man gestured to an empty chair to his right, and I sat down. Aariz and Qadir were standing in the kitchen nearby; I nodded to them, and Aariz nodded back, while Qadir frowned and looked away.

Ibrahim began, “First, I want to apologize on behalf of my entire family, from the bottom of my heart. All of my grandsons agree and apologize to you; we treated you poorly, almost like an animal, and we are ashamed. But you have acted perfectly, you did not return evil for evil. In fact, you gave us a gift in return…to me first, the gift of a memory, of something beautiful…my life before the suffering…which I had forgotten…and through this you returned a part of me that I had lost…that I didn’t know I had lost. You have not seen it, because we kept you in that wretched shed, but because of you…you have restored my grandsons to me…and I am restored to them. Resentment is a violent fire, and it burns in the heart of the unforgiving…unforgiveness divided our household for a long time…for generations, if I am being honest. But now, you…you have shown by your example…your being here showed me the way of forgiveness…how not to become resentful, even when you had every justification, every right to be…resentful…and vengeful…for the way we have treated you. This is a great lesson to me, and to my family. Don’t you agree, Qadir?!” The old man looked to the middle brother sternly, and then continued, “…some of us are still learning this lesson. My grandsons planned to capture someone, wanting to exchange them with the Israeli’s, to win their father’s freedom…my own son…you can understand a son’s desire to be with his father…to love his father, and be loved by him. They want their father back…and you offered yourself freely to help us, you gave yourself to be mistreated and you didn’t know what might become of you…I’m telling you now…you have already given them their father back! Our family tree broke long ago, but you have shown us the way to repair it, how to mend its broken branches…I promise you that we will follow your example, and when their father returns…which he will in only another year or so…we will graft him back into this family…we will show him what you have shown us…the grandfather will teach his son, and the grandsons will teach their father…and this family will be restored!”

The old man stopped his speech on this high point, with great emotion and tears welling up in his eyes. I looked around the room and the other men too had become caught up by the grandfather’s oration; Aariz and Khalid both smiled broadly, Aariz walking around the table and laying his hands warmly, with great affection, upon Ibrahim’s shoulders, and Kahlid dabbing at his eyes and wiping his cheek as he stared affectionately at his grandfather. Even Qadir betrayed a small smile, before turning to hide his face from his brothers. I thanked them all for this kindness and expressed my gratitude, grabbing Ibrahim’s forearm firmly—as he had done with me in the past—and I said a prayer of blessing over their home.

That was my last evening with them; we ate dinner together, and though they invited me to stay the night in a spare room, insisting that I sleep under their roof, I declined, and spent my final night in the small shed that I had grown accustomed to. The next morning as I prepared to leave, the skies opened and a torrential rain fell for several hours, delaying my departure.

*  *  *

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