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Nocturnal Journey

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

My suffering Mother was still on my back when all at once I stood in front of the main gate of the hospital in waiting for somebody to open it for us. The Iron Gate was still closed since last night.

While I was waiting I was able to see clearly and distinctly the big interior of the courtyard of the hospital or the space and the grounds behind the main gate and inside the wall that surrounded the whole hospital.

One could see in a clear way what was going on there, inside the wall. I could see the olive trees of different sizes scattered in a visible and beautiful harmony in all the grounds of the hospital. One could see the small and the narrow footpaths on which some patients, the sick people, walked slowly with some or a lot of precaution either all alone or in company with others, the nurses.

es/ Math Teacher
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I had the instantaneous impression that all was calm, peaceful and tranquil. I realized very well that nobody was in a hurry, not at all. Somebody approached the main gate to receive me… us. I was sure that somebody would come to the main gate to welcome and to greet us. It was not possible that nobody would come to see us, to receive us.

Nevertheless, nobody has ever expected to see a young man, of less than thirty years of age, carrying his Mother on his back. The door was opened precipitately for letting us enter into the enclosure of the hospital. The guard of the gate, in seeing me a little bit fatigued, did not want to let me wait outside more than necessary.

"Let me, Sir, help you. It seems to me that your mother is suffering a lot and that you yourself, with no doubt, are equally tired." said the guard in an obliging, kind, gentle and considerate tone.

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"Thank you very much. Thank you. I am already accustomed to carry my Mother on my back. You see, it is unbelievable, my Mother is very light, in fact, and without exaggeration, she has no weight. This is an advantage for me. I think she weighs nothing or actually few kilos. In addition, it is enormously suitable and proper for her to repose on my back. She has always, on my back, the strange feeling that she is in security and in an incontestable peace and tranquillity. She has been on my back starting from our departure from the City of Brotherly Love, Amman, and ending up in the Holy City, Jerusalem". I replied gently in looking at the guard.

"Now you are inside the grounds of the hospital, inside the sanctuary of the hospital. Look around you, have a look around you. Do you see even a single patient carried on the back of a male-nurse or on the back of one of his relatives? I forgot to tell you that I have with me the rolling chair. Your Mother can now sit in this special medical chair." said the guard who took my Mother from my back and put her at once in the rolling chair.

"You are right, you are right. It is very suitable to use the rolling chair. It is very suitable to use the rolling chair for transporting patients like her". I responded in looking at my Mother in the rolling chair with astonishment.

"Don’t you have a suitcase, a bundle, a sack, a bag? I was informed that you would keep company with her for at least nine nights after the operation. A room has been reserved, booked, for you, adjacent to that of your mother. I think that she would stay with us in the hospital for a minimum of ten days. I would like to tell you that the hospital has received a telephone call coming from the City of Brotherly Love which has informed us about the arrival of your Mother this morning." the guard told me all that was related to the illness of my Mother.

I was not having at all a suitcase. However, I had at that time the small cloth bundle. I explained to the guard the mysterious circumstances in which we were at the time we went out of the City of Brotherly Love, Amman. I told him the stories of the empty and the deserted streets as if a curfew has been imposed on all the City of Brotherly Love.

Then, I described for him, without giving him details, the physical changes that have taken place in some of the quarters of the City. I finished my story by telling him about the behaviour and reaction of the inhabitants and how they hid themselves in their homes and how they locked the doors by the keys.

The inhabitants were thinking that an outraged monster wanted to kill them, to devour them alive. The guard expressed his astonishment and his surprise but he did not want at all to make any comment regarding events that have taken place in the City of the Brotherly Love, Amman.

During that epoch of the history of our country everybody always was hesitant to discuss the passing, the unfolding and the development of political events in the capital of our country and elsewhere.

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The guard has understood easily the real implications of my story and just reacted by shaking frequently his head because it seemed that he was aware of the tragic and regrettable events that have taken place in the country.

The guard has assured me that everything would be arranged in the best way. The doctor, the surgeon, has given the necessary instructions that we should be given the best services possible.

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We have penetrated into the sanctuary of the hospital. The silence and serenity have been dominating everywhere and I had the sensation and feeling that I was in a monastery of the mediaeval ages. As soon as we arrived in the main building of the hospital two nice nurses have received us with extreme gentleness and courtesy.

I was enormously surprised in getting such a warm, cordial and unexpected welcome. We exchanged, I and the nurses, all at once, few but relevant words and then we rushed hurriedly, in haste, and without delay, towards the clinic of the surgeon.

We have traversed, in a little bit of a hurry, several corridors and small paths. The place was so much clean that the floor on which we were walking looked to me like a mirror. In a very short time, we were standing in front of the medical clinic of the surgeon. The time was almost seven thirty in the morning.

The physician himself opened the door and he put on his face a peaceful and a comforting and an encouraging smile. We have shaken hands. The three of us, the surgeon, my Mother, and myself, were in a short time after that inside the clinic. Naturally I was charged with the rolling chair of my Mother.

I was extremely impressed by the personality of the surgeon, a man who was at the beginning of the forties of his life, or less than that. His face reflected a clear image of a man who was highly motivated and sincere. With the two eyebrows almost thick and two black eyes, he, the surgeon, gave the interlocutor the confidence and the tranquillity. His hair was, in general, black with some grey hair scattered here and there, on his head. He was of an average height and spoke with us in a peaceful, calm and sympathetic manner.

I came to know that the surgeon had many years of advanced professional medical training in his field of specialization abroad. He has already practised his profession for several years and he had had already a good reputation as an excellent surgeon in the country.

On that day, the doctor was dressed up in his white shining medical uniform. He started the dialogue by asking me to be seated in a chair placed in front of his bureau. Of course, my Mother stayed in her rolling chair.

es/ Prevalent Situation
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© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

"Welcome to both of you in our hospital. I hope that everything would go on in the right way and your Mother will be cured of her disease after the operation." the physician told me.

"I am sure, doctor that she would have the best medical treatment here, in Jerusalem. When would she be operated, tomorrow or after tomorrow?" I asked the doctor.

"Don’t worry, don’t worry, everything would be arranged and your mother would receive an excellent care." answered the doctor.

"Doctor, she has been ill since several years, perhaps since five years. Nobody has even told me that she has been suffering from Cancer… except yesterday". I said to the physician.

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Then I tried to narrate to him in a concise and short way the tragic history of the sickness of my Mother since the first operation, five years ago for the removal of a non-malignant tumour out of her uterus.

Then I told him the history of the pain which she has suffered from in her waist which continued for several years. The doctor who was in charge of her at this stage of her illness has never thought that the pain from which she suffered could have been the beginning of a Cancer in the uterus… and not only a simple pain of the waist. For about two years my Mother had actually the Cancer that was slowly attacking her organs, other than the uterus, like the entrails, the intestines, etc. Then I told the surgeon about our visit of the doctor of the City of Brotherly Love, who had a hospital there. He was the Doctor who told me that my Mother had Cancer in her uterus as well as in her intestines, and that the cancer was in its last stage. He advised us to go at once to his hospital in the City.

The doctor, after that, posed to me some questions concerning the history of the disease and its development especially regarding the initial phases several years ago.

This preliminary session with the doctor lasted for less than half an hour. The doctor asked me to wait where I was and he asked my Mother to accompany him to the special clinic space in order to carry out some first examinations and diagnoses for discovering and identifying the exact nature of the disease.

The absence of my Mother came to an end by the return of the doctor accompanied by the patient. The doctor told me that she would have the operation the day after tomorrow. The following day, all the specialized sections of the hospital, the doctor told me, would carry out the necessary examinations that precede the operation.

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After the end of the visit to the clinic of the surgeon, my Mother and I went out of the clinic in a calm way. A nurse of a young age came and with tenderness and affection began to push the rolling chair.

As much as I can remember, the room of my Mother was in the third floor that looked on the gardens of olive trees of the hospital. From the window of the room one could see a great part of the panorama of the Sanctity and the Great wall that surrounds it.

I was designated another room that was adjacent to that of my Mother. Therefore, I had the same privilege as that of my Mother concerning the enjoyment of the beauty and charm of the Holy City, Jerusalem.

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All at once, and while my Mother was about to be installed in her room with the aid of two nurses, I remembered and with sensation the spiritual ecstasy, which I felt at that moment, for being in the heart and practically in the bosom of the Sanctity. I said, still I have to wait two more days before the operation of my Mother.

At that moment I was more lured and tempted to make a visit to Jerusalem than staying in the hospital. Obviously, I was not at all a stranger in this Holy environment and sacred place. In the past I had several occasions and chances for visiting and coming to the Sanctity.

Therefore, during the illness of my Mother I was already an obstinate adorer and a determined worshipper of the Sanctity. I was already an obsessed admirer of this Holy City. In fact, I believed, at that time, that of the illness of my Mother, that the Holy City possessed an immortal and sacred charm. She, Jerusalem, has an incontestable and indisputable beauty and an immense power which renders man happy.

During the two days that preceded the fixed date of the operation of my Mother, I had the idea of carrying out a nocturnal visit to the sanctuary of Zaouia. Of course, I discussed this idea, my intention, with my Mother. I told her that I should visit that place for passing there one night only in a small cell of reclusion and meditation.

My Mother did not express any objection. On the contrary, she has encouraged me and asked me to beseech and ask God, the Almighty, to give her salvation and victory against the ferocious monster and the disease, Cancer.

In the afternoon, I left my Mother alone who was at that time shedding her warm tears. I went towards the Damascus Gate of the Holy City. Behind the Great wall, which the Ottoman Turks built, I knew very well my way inside the narrow alleys and small paths of the Holy City.

My final destination was the famous Avenue of Dolorosa where Jesus Christ walked dragging his legs and carrying the Cross on his back and his bleeding shoulder. The thorns diadem was crowning his head, almost two thousand years ago. There was located the Zaouia Sanctuary where I will spend one night.

For sure, I walked very cautiously as if my Mother was on my back and did not carry with me anything with the exception of the suffering of my Mother and the hope that God, the Almighty, would give her salvation, the absolution, the clemency, the deliverance and the victory against the horrible disease, the Cancer.

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The night has come slowly and the twilight has disappeared in the horizon. I went all at once to a cell in the Zaouia. In the corner of the solitude I made myself seated while looking at the weak and feeble light coming from a small electric lamp that looked like a night-light or like a dying candle.

The little cell was approximately naked with no observed pieces of furniture at all. Nothing was there with the exception of a simple and primitive wooden bed without a mattress. However, I had a small low table on which was placed a copy of our Holy Book, the Quran. In another corner of the cell one could see a small carpet to be used for the five prayers of the day.

In the middle of the cell of the spiritual reclusion I almost saw many phantoms, some bearded old men who opened their mouth without saying anything and who were performing a type of a dance that I have never witnessed in the City of Brotherly Love, Amman.

Then these phantoms have started to pray together in a group, in unison. After that, they bowed down to the ground, they prostrated. Then they stood up in reciting verses from the Holy Book, the Quran. Therefore, with them I began to pray and it seemed to me that they prayed and prayed without coming to an end.

Around me I discovered that the cell has been overcrowded with illuminating creatures who were praying without any fatigue, weariness or lassitude.

Abruptly, the night-light has been extinguished and the cell has been submerged in the darkness of the night. Nothing was visible for me in the space around me and I was forced to feel my way to bed. Since I was tired I fell down in a deep sleep. But it seemed to me that the door of the cell was opened for several times and that some persons went discreetly out of the small cell in which I was sleeping.

During my deep sleep I had a dream in which I have seen my Mother attached to her two white wings and she was flying high in the sky in the morning when the Sun was rising lazily, idly from the horizon.

My Mother continued her heavenly voyage and before her disappearance in the depth of the sky she gave me a beautiful smile. Afterwards, I lost her trace and I woke up of my sleep in trembling and perspiring.

The night-light, in a miraculous way, started once more to give and spread its feeble light. At that moment I was able to see the environment, the milieu of the cell.

I looked to my watch for knowing the approximate time. The dawn was about to be born in few minutes time and I began to hear the nice and the enchanting singing of the birds which were flying in the blue and cloudless sky of the Sanctity.

Outside the cell and in the narrow corridor which faced the cell I could hear a sort of an uproar. Two persons were discussing a subject which I could not understand at all. One of the two was a woman. As a matter of fact, I could recognize the voice of each member of the group. The voice was that of one of my relatives who never ever liked my Mother. Obviously, he hated her and he did not miss any chance or opportunity for expressing his hatred towards her. The second member of the group was our wicked neighbour, the witch of the quarter, who never wished the well-being of my Mother.

From the interior of the cell, my cell, I heard the two members of the group, talking to each other as follows:

"There is the son who is still plunged in his deep sleep and he does not know that we were with him all through the night. Our presence with him in the small cell is for him like a dream. Unfortunately, this young man does not know that we have accompanied him scrupulously throughout the Journey from the City of Brotherly Love and ending up in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, we have lost his trace, his track, for a while, in the Valley of the Holy River. The son thinks that he is all alone with his Mother." said the wicked relative who spoke in a whispering way to the other member of the couple.

"Let me put for him the poison in the carafe of water. The son would die before sunrise, even before the birth of dawn. This is the poison, take it, it is with me in the black bag. Give me your approval, and this saver of his Mother would die before her death." proposed artfully the wicked witch.

"Why kill the Son. It is the Mother whom we wish to kill. Isn’t it so? Since a long time our objective has been always to accelerate and hurry up her death." answered the wicked relative.

Inside the small cell, naturally, I was not asleep. Perhaps, I stayed all the night awake in trying to contemplate and to make some reflection. The discussion which took place in the corridor astonished as well as stunned me. The words and the expressions which I have heard, I believe, were not but a manifestation of the foolishness which has struck the two conspirators.

es/ Brothers Boarding Their Orange Car
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© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

The discussion and the uproar have stopped all at once. "Why did this strange uproar disappear?" I asked myself. In the midst of the feeble light of the cell I tried to discover what has been going on in the small world of the cell of the reclusion of the Zaouia.

"How is it possible that these two devils, who wish the death for my Mother, are outside, there in the corridor?" I posed this preceding question. It was possible for me to go towards the door which was well closed. I opened it. The corridor was empty and the silence was reigning there.

Nevertheless, at the end of the corridor, I remarked a small cat and a black dog which were going out of the Zaouia of contemplation and of mysticism, the world of spiritual reclusion. Without any doubt, the voice which I heard sometime before was that of the neighbour, the witch and the cursed relative.

In spite of the fact that it was still dark, I tried to examine the scene in front of me to identify the two animals that were about to go out. I advanced my steps in a hurry towards the main gate of the Zaouia. As soon as I was on the steps of the main gate I was surprised to see the creatures, the two members of the couple, of the group, and not the small cat and the big black dog.

As a matter of fact, at that moment, I rubbed my eyes, several times, to see better the small world in which I was found. I had the sentiment that I was actually in a dream and that I was still in my bed in the cell of reclusion. Actually, I was still lying in my bed and darkness dominated everywhere in the space of the cell.

The two members of the group, who were pursuing me from one place to another in our way to Jerusalem, were actually figures of the creation of my own imagination.

I realized that it was still the night and that the Sun was still sleeping behind the horizon and since some time. Yet suddenly a noise came from the neighbouring cells. I prepared my ears well so as to be able to identify and recognize in a better way the nature and the source of the strange noise.

After sometime, I was able to know that some men, all of advanced age, were praying or were reciting some verses from our Sacred Holy Book. All at once I recalled the main objective for which I was sequestering myself in the cell during this night. I remembered my Mother and her fatal disease, the Cancer. I realized that I was in the Sanctity and that the main objective was to save my Mother from her fatal and deadly disease, the Cancer.

The darkness that was reigning in the cell did not allow me to read some verses from the copy of the Holy Book, the Quran that was made available in the cell. My neighbours in the other cells in the corridor knew by heart all the chapters of the Holy Book. Therefore, they were reciting the holy verses of the Holy Quran from their memory in the midst of darkness and obscurity.

In my case, the only way to be able to recite the Quran, our Holy Book, was to read the Book itself. This was not possible because of the darkness that was surrounding me. However, I kept silent and I listened to the spiritual recitation of the residents of the other neighbouring cells. The voice of the old men was so weak and feeble that I could not hear it easily and neatly.

While I was sitting in a squatting way in the bed, I tried to make some kind of contemplation. I was surprised to see my Mother standing in the middle of the cell. She looked like a spectre, a phantom, dressed in a white robe which I thought to be a shroud.

The phantom in front of me did not move and did not speak to me, but she was looking at me, staring at me, continuously. From time to time some shining tears came out of her eyes that looked to me in the darkness of the night like small twinkling stars that were coming down on the pale and emaciated face of my suffering Mother.

The spectre kept standing where it has appeared for some moments. As for me, the son of the phantom that was wrapped in a shroud, I was struck by some kind of a stupefaction and astonishment and I wished ardently to address some words to the spectre that has disappeared all at once in the obscurity. Because of this mysterious phenomenon I became extremely melancholic and depressive.

The first idea that passed in my spirit was concerning the actual life of my Mother. The idea of her sudden death in the hospital and in my absence has frightened me a lot and thought that I should leave the Zaouia immediately and instantaneously so that I would be in the hospital in a short time.

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For a few moments I was more or less hesitant and reticent to go to the room of my Mother in the hospital. Perhaps, the guard there would not allow me to enter into the main gate in this early morning time of the day. On the other hand, it would not be reasonable for me to leave the Zaouia before the birth of the dawn of the day. Nevertheless, and to my astonishment, the spectre of my Mother appeared still another time. Her face was all covered by the cloth of the shroud. The phantom advanced slowly towards me. I was afraid of the movement of the spectre in the cell and started to tremble, to shake and to shiver continuously. The phantom for the second time has disappeared in the cell and at that particular moment I was almost lost and I was under the impression that I lost my capacity of reasoning and thinking properly. I thought that I was becoming more or less a fool who would be laughed at by all people.

A little bit of the light of the dawn has started to penetrate into the small room and I was able to ascertain that the small cell was empty and that I was its only occupant.

I had the desire and the wish to be immediately nearby my Mother in her room in the hospital. The appearance of her spectre twice and the strange visit of the wicked relative and the bad neighbour, the witch of the quarter, has given me the impression that my Mother was really suffering and probably she would die or already she was dead before being operated on.

The noise of the slow steps came to my ears from the corridor. Probably, the occupants of the other adjacent cells were coming out for going somewhere in the Zaouia of reclusion.

This noise has become more and more high and intense. Was it already the time for the prayer of the dawn? I thought that these were the steps of the occupants, the mystics, who preferred to pray in the Holy Sanctuary that produced that peculiar noise.

The corridor did not stop to be the source of all kinds of noise. The cleaning up of the throat and the spitting of the saliva produced a hideous, dreadful, repugnant and offensive noise which I could not tolerate at all.

For a short time, the image of my sick Mother or perhaps my dead Mother did not show itself because actually I was busy trying to understand what has been going in the corridor.

I have decided to leave the cell in order to have a walk in the corridor and to explore the situation there. I had an enormous and unexpected surprise. A little bit far from my cell and at the end of the corridor I saw a group of occupants of the other cells who were entering into a cell inside of which there were already other old age occupants.

When I was just at the threshold of this room I saw that at the middle of this place, the body of a person already dead was placed on a rectangular, oblong, shaped table. I saw there around the table three men who were busy washing with soap and hot water the body of a bearded old man who was of more than seventy years old.

I discovered later on that the defunct being washed was a resident of the Zaouia. Around the rectangular washing table about seven men were standing there. They were reciting and in a low voice and together some verses of our Holy Book.

I was told that the defunct would be buried in the cemetery located outside the Great Wall of the Sanctuary. Hastily after the end of the washing, the body of the dead man was wrapped by the white shroud. A big quantity of powder Henna was scattered over all the body especially on the face.

I forced myself to enter into this room of washing of the dead man to witness and attend the last rituals of the preparation of the dead man for the eternal life. Nobody has noticed my entry into the room and my presence. Naturally, everybody was concentrating all his thinking on the corpse of their dead colleague.

"Why do you wash the dead man in such an early time of the morning? It would have been better, preferable, to have washed him late in the morning for immediately taking him to the mosque for the funeral prayer". I asked the men standing around the washing table.

"This is what the dead man has asked for before his death. He has written for us his will before his death by few days. The dead man has lost his capacity to speak several days before his death, perhaps one week ago. Before that, this dead man was complaining of an abrupt and a sudden and severe pain in his throat. His sickness and his death have taken place in a very sudden way… as if he was strangled by a ferocious monster or by an invisible hand. This dead occupant, mystic, has come to the Zaouia since fifteen years and he refused categorically to consult doctors regarding his pain and his suffering. There he is dead and he would be buried in the afternoon without knowing anything about the nature of his disease and his rapid death".

I was struck by what the occupant, the mystic, the old man, has told me. I began reasoning and thinking that the dead man, was really a victim of the horrible monster of our time, the Cancer. The disease, in the case of the dead man, was there in his throat. Without any doubt or hesitation, this was the Cancer of the throat, the oesophagus that killed the dead old man in one week time.

From a nearby distance from the rectangular oblong table I stared at the neck of the dead man so as to discover the reality. At this particular moment I imagined myself seeing a monster devouring the dead man from his neck. All the men around the mortal remains, the corpse, of the dead man, did not see, remark, at all, the extraordinary phenomenon which I was witnessing. These men continued their work with the dead body.

While in my case, the scene in front of me reminded me of the catastrophic condition in which was found my Mother. I felt really that I was in need of a chair, or whatever seat was available so as to seat myself and take some rest and avoid the possibility of falling down on the ground losing conscience.

"Excuse me Sir. I do not understand the nature of the disease. You said that only one week after the pain started in the throat of the victim that death took place". I asked the old man.

"Yes, yes, Sir, during the last five days of the life of the dead, our colleague, felt that he was almost strangled in an extremely savage way by an invisible strong hand. In reality our colleague struggled against the horrible monster." answered the colleague of the dead man.

"This is an astonishing and an inexplicable phenomenon… I mean his illness, which is fatal and not curable. My friends this is the "Cancer" and nothing else. This disease is nothing but a savage and a cruel monster. My Mother has been struck by this monster since several years. My Mother struggles heroically against this monster. The case of your colleague is unique. Your colleague has yielded, has given up, to this monster without any struggle or resistance". I told the old man.

As soon as I finished my declaration and my discourse I was surprised to see that all the seven old men, the mystics, have disappeared from the washing room. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me that each one of them has escaped from the room as soon as it was possible. I noticed that all the old men were having panic in a clear way as their pale face demonstrated that.

I could not find any convincing justification for their flight except the fear and the terror. I, all at once, recalled the shameful and the unworthy attitude of some of the people who believed with conviction that Cancer was a contagious disease. In finding myself in this embarrassing situation I decided to leave the washing room in this Zaouia.

I said that my Mother was waiting for me patiently and that I was not at all in a position that permitted me to do something for the dead man, the deceased, who was almost ready to be buried.

The corridor became completely empty and there was not a single human being. The silence installed itself everywhere in the Zaouia.

I was shaken to witness the escape of Man from an imaginary monster as if He wished to be saved from the attacking Pestilence.

I could not understand what was going on to the dead man, the defunct, in the washing room because I was extremely busy thinking of my mother who was sick and waiting for me in the hospital.

Before I went to my Mother I told myself that I should go and visit the Holy Sanctuary of the Sanctity, Jerusalem, to pray the Prayer of the Dawn. In the Al-Aqsa Mosque I prayed the first prayer of the day in unison with many other believers and faithful men.

In a very short time I finished praying after asking God, the Almighty to save my Mother. On my way back to the hospital I hurried up my steps involuntarily as if somebody was carrying me on his shoulders. I could not understand how I was in a miraculous way in the room of my Mother in the hospital.

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Nocturnal Journey

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