In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
There were so many that deserved my thanks for completing, by the grace of God, the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. It was one of the happiest days of my life. But, there is one “Thank You” that I left out: my deepest thanks to my angel Bayan.
In June 2009, my eldest daughter, Bayan H. Hassaballa, lost her hard-fought battle against lymphoma. It was the worst thing that could have ever happened to my wife and me, and I would not wish such a tragedy on my worst enemy. I was inspired to run for her this year, and thus, I set out last year to do what I did on 10-10-10. And I must thank my angel Bayan for it.
Ever since she was born to my wife and me, Bayan brought nothing but joy, ecstasy, happiness, and fulfillment. I still remember, as if it was yesterday, my then 6-month-old Bayan grasping everything on my desk as I studied for my medical school exams. Her smile, even when she was a little baby, always managed to light up the room and warm even the coldest and darkest of hearts. There was not a single person who was not immediately enthralled by Bayan from the very moment he or she had met her.
Thank you my habeebee (my love), for all that joy.
When she was diagnosed with the horrifically crippling disease Ataxia-Telangiectasia, my wife and I were totally devastated, for this disease robbed Bayan of her ability to walk, run, and be free of infectious disease. Yet, her smile persevered, and despite her tremendous disability, she was as glowing and happy as ever. We made the active decision to not pay attention to the fact that she was sick and disabled, except when it needed to be treated, and focus on living every day with her to the fullest. And it brought my family and me tremendous joy and happiness.
Thank you my habeebee, for all that joy.
Then came her lymphoma, and unfortunately, her smile went away. Although she would never tell us, she was in tremendous pain from her disease. But, she would never, ever complain. She taught me what true strength is all about. Moreover, even when she was suffering, she hated for anything bad to happen to my wife and me. I remember one night in the hospital, the doctors allowed us to go home one day early. My wife was home with our other children, and we wanted to make it a surprise for her by coming home early. My sister helped me take her home, and Bayan wanted to ride home with her aunt. Bayan wouldn’t move until she asked me, “Are you sure you won’t be sad, Baba?” That’s how beautiful Bayan was.
Thank you my habeebee, for all that beauty.
Then came my personal 9/11: the day she went back to her Lord to join her fellow angels in Paradise. The pain of her loss was unbearable, and there is not a day that goes by that my heart does not ache for her absence from our lives. But, it was the pain of her loss that motivated my wife and me to turn that tragedy into an opportunity for good: founding the Bayan H. Hassaballa Charitable Foundation. And to help raise funds and awareness, I ran this year’s Chicago Marathon.
After the Lord my God, it was Bayan that helped me get up all those mornings to run miles, and miles, and miles to train for the race. It was Bayan that kept me on my training schedule as I limped from the numerous blisters that plagued my feet, the numerous pains that plagued my legs and knees. It was remembering the relentless pain that Bayan felt each and every day that helped me keep going as my legs burned from running 16, 18, and 20 miles in training. After the Lord my God, it was Bayan that gave me the strength to endure.
Thank you my habeebee, for all that strength.
During the race, all I could think about was seeing the Finish Line and finding Bayan there. As the miles continued, and the heat ramped up to the point that conditions were deemed to be dangerous for marathon running, the bottom half of my body was on fire. I could barely run, and in fact, I had to walk many of the last 4 miles of the race. But, never, never did I ever contemplate giving up and not completing the race. Never. If I had to crawl across the Finish Line, I would do it. All for my Bayan. I knew that Bayan would be there, at the end, smiling down on me, and so I just had to go there. After the Precious Beloved Lord my God, it was Bayan that gave me the strength to finish the race and get the medal I now so cherish.
Thank you my habeebee, for all that power.
Ideally, I would have run a marathon for Bayan while she was alive and healthy. Maybe, I would have even run the race pushing her in her wheelchair. Ideally, I would have run 26.2 miles and get to see her smiling at me in person at the end of the race, rather than rely on the many memories of her beautiful, smiling face. But, it is not an ideal world. It is because of her death that I was motivated to do what I did in her name. Even after she went back to her Lord, Bayan has made me a much better person, a much better father, a much better believer in the Precious Beloved Lord.
And after the Lord my God, I have my angel Bayan to thank for it.
Thank you habeebee, for everything you have given me.