I Never Knew What True Love Was…Until She Came

She would have been 22 today, December 30

Mediterranean Coast, Egypt (2006). Bayan is in the middle. Our now oldest child, Minna, is seated to the far left.

Of course, I knew love before she came: I married the best woman in the world. And, just over a year into our marriage, we were blessed with our first child, Bayan, and I never knew I could love another person like that until she came.

And she gave me that love right back. Her smile melted my heart. Her laugh filled me with joy. Her eyes glowed with Angelic light. She filled our lives with such joy, and it still hurts so much that she is gone.

Bayan Hassaballa — born on December 30, 1996 — was diagnosed with a crippling disease when she was only six. At the age of twelve, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, and after six months of a brutal battle, she passed away in 2009. She didn’t make it to her 13th birthday.

The picture above was taken in 2006 during our last trip to Egypt, from where our ancestry hails. I have always loved this picture. The Northern Mediterranean Coast of Egypt is breathtaking in its beauty, with sugar white sand and crystal clear blue waters. We were taking in the beauty of the moment, and I was holding her to make sure she didn’t get swept up by the waves.

My wife, ever the amazing photographer, forever captured the moment when Bayan reached up and held me, and the way she held me encapsulated the love she showed me every single day. I could look at this picture for hours and never get sick of it. I am so grateful that my wife took it.

Of course, Bayan’s love for me paled in comparison to her love for her mother, and that is only natural. Nevertheless, she loved me in such a way that it felt as if I was the only one in her world. She would light up when I came home from work, and my heart would leap when I saw her.

Even in the depths of her chemotherapy treatments, we had good times. She had me wrapped around her finger, and I would go to the ends of the earth to get her what she wanted. If I had to climb a mountain and come back down just to see her smile, I would do it without hesitation.

As her disease progressed, she could no longer walk, and I had to physically carry her at times from place to place. I knew people felt sorry for me when they saw me carry her, and I could feel their pity as they saw me carrying her. But, I swear by the Beautiful Face of the Beloved, I never minded at all. I was the happiest man earth, holding her in my arms.

The love of a child is truly unconditional, and it is one of the joys of being a parent. It is the closest taste of Divine Love on earth, and Bayan’s love could suffice multiple parents for multiple lifetimes. The grief of her loss is always there, just under the surface, and it does not take much for it to come roaring back and nearly suffocate me to death.

Today is her 22nd birthday, and what a beautiful 22-year-old she would have made. I know she is celebrating in the Precious Beloved’s Garden, relishing in Angelic song and lighting up the Heavens with her beautiful smile. Since her passing, we have been blessed with so many good things and good times, and I can never thank the Lord enough for all His blessings and comfort.

At the same time, every time I look at that picture above, I get lost in the wonderful memories of her love for me and how it filled my heart with joy. I never knew True Love until she came into my life, and the realization that she is gone makes my heart ache with a pain that will never go away.

The happiest of 22nd Birthdays, my Beloved Booboo. Baba loves you more than you can ever know, and he can’t wait to see you again.