The Power of a Name: Speaking Love, Peace, and Blessing in a Libyan Hospital

Aya’s mom spent a lot of time at her bedside as she recovered from lifesaving heart surgery. She ran her fingers through her daughter’s hair, made sure she was comfortable, and gently stroked her forehead. When Aya was well enough, her mom moved to a chair and rocked her daughter in her arms as she sang softly to soothe her.

There were quiet times together, but there were also many times when Aya’s mom spoke to her daughter. Each time she spoke Aya’s name, she was declaring her beautiful.

The tubes connected to her body and the scar running down her chest didn’t matter at all—Aya was beautiful.

That’s what Aya means in Arabic. “Beautiful.”

In countries like Libya, names carry rich meaning. Most names are Arabic words and phrases; they are terms everyone uses and understands. No matter who you talk to, if you ask about the meaning of their name, they are quick to answer.

There were other children in that Libyan hospital last November, waiting for a lifesaving heart surgeries. Each of their names told a story. Each one said something about who they are—or who they are destined to be.  

Seham spent countless hours sitting beside her daughter in the ICU. Her husband died three years ago, so her children are her life now. Little Mawada was inconsolable in the hospital. She desperately missed her younger brother, so Seham spent a lot of time holding her hands, trying to comfort her.

Mawada’s name means “beloved.” Her mother’s tender care proved her name to be true.

Abdalla’s parents were nervous when they brought him to the hospital. They spoke reassuring words to their son... and to each other. Abdalla was expected to have a successful surgery, but until his heart was actually fixed, there remained a gnawing fear.

When Abdalla’s parents handed him to the surgical team, they spoke his name, declaring him to be a “servant of God” as they said good-bye. No doubt their own hearts needed the reminder that their child belonged to God.

As for sweet Salem? He was always so quick with a shy glance, a broad smile, and a contagious giggle. Each time his name was spoken—by his mom, by the nurse who distracted him while the doctor inspected his incision, by the cardiologist who checked his heart before he was released from hospital—each one spoke to him of “peace.”

In a country currently in the throes of civil war, firmly divided between west, east, and the land in between now home to ISIS—in a country where a financial crisis has wreaked havoc and the health care system has been crushed under the pressure—Tabarak received a heart surgery that saved her life. There is no doubt, each time her family speaks her name, they remember that Tabarak is “blessed.”

And Fateh? When his mother saw him after surgery—when she ran her fingers over his head and traced the long bandage running from chin to belly, examining every square inch of his mended body—she whispered his name and declared “triumph”!

These are the stories you make possible every day—stories of love, peace, blessing, and triumph.  

About Erin Wilson

Communications Officer for Preemptive Love Coalition, based in Iraq. Photographer + artist, storyteller + story gatherer, peace maker + bridge builder, student + teacher, unrepentant lover of unexpected beauty.

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The Power of a Name: Speaking Love, Peace, and Blessing in a Libyan Hospital
The Power of a Name: Speaking Love, Peace, and Blessing in a Libyan Hospital
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