It was my second day in the US when I met a beautiful soul, Essra. I met her for the first time at Kennesaw State University where I had gone to check email as the university was a walkable distance from my apartment. I was at the Library, where with a beautiful smile, Essra introduced herself and asked if I would like to join the MSA. As I was unfamiliar with this acronym, I asked her what MSA stood for. Smiling, she asked how long I’ve been in the US. As she came to know it was only my 2nd day, she offered me help. She wrote her number on a piece of paper and told me to call her if I needed anything. I was taken aback with her kindness. She didn’t know me but still offered help and was willing to drive me around if I needed a ride. Unfortunately, I lost the piece of paper with her number.
It was an entire year later when we met again. As soon as she saw me, she greeted me with excitement and asked if I remembered her. I too was very glad to see her again. You don’t come across such beautiful and kind people very often and she made a lasting impression on me the very first time I met her. Since I had a cell phone, I saved her number and kept in contact. We worked together and went to the same university and became very good friends.
For folks that don’t know Essra, she is an activist and community leader, organizer of events for the less-fortunate and refugees and kind-hearted to a fault, where she just can’t say No and never passes an opportunity to help someone. No matter what religion, cast, color or background, she is ready to help anywhere and anytime. I've never met anyone like her. For her work, she received many recognitions and awards but I’ve never seen her being proud of them. Her energy, her passion, and kindness are contagious.
In 2013, I was having dinner with my family when I received a call from her. She was weeping and asked that I forgive her if ever she intentionally or unintentionally hurt me. My heart sank. This was so unusual of Essra. She asked if I could come and meet her at Emory hospital. Without hesitation, I left and drove straight to the hospital where I saw her laying on the bed with all kinds of equipment attached to her. She greeted me with a beautiful smile, as always, hugged me and told me that Allah wants to test her to see how strong she is and that He has better plans for her and to have faith in Him. Soon after, the doctors walked in and told her she has a huge tumor growing in her head and they don’t know if it is benign or cancerous. I just couldn’t stand listening and ran outside of the room. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I was questioning Allah for what she was going through. How can something like this happen to someone like her? At that moment, Essra called me in and began to console me instead of me consoling her.
Word spread fast and within a few short hours, the hospital was bubbling with friends and family, praying for her speedy recovery. I visited her again the next day. She greeted me with such excitement that it didn’t feel like she was just diagnosed with a tumor. We talked and laughed in our normal way. I read to her all the messages that were sent to her from near and far. Thousands of well-wishers praying for her recovery.
Alhamdulillah, Allah accepted everyone’s prayer. The surgery was successful and the tumor was benign. Unfortunately, during the surgery, optic nerve damaged from glaucoma and due to this, she lost her peripheral vision. Now she can't drive, however, she has not given up on life. My heart aches to see her struggle but she is a strong lady and will get through every test Allah will put her through.