Laila Abu-Saba was a great soul. If she had been Jewish (she was married to a Jew) she would have been a tzadeket. But she was a Lebanese American Christian. That doesn’t make her any less of a saint for sure.
Like me, Laila blogged about the Israel-Arab conflict, she at Dove’s Eye View. And like me, she blogged about much more than that: about Lebanese cuisine, writing, her poet father. Unlike me, she had breast cancer. And it killed her. But the cancer didn’t kill her really. Nothing could kill her spirit, a spirit that yearned for all that was good and decent and kind.
I got the distinct impression that Laila didn’t want to be defined by her cancer. She wanted to write her blog about the things in life that gave her joy and not be burdened by things that did not.
I don’t remember how exactly I came to meet her. But when I first began blogging in 2003 I searched high and low for anyone blogging on a subject remotely close to my own. Back then, I had an immense need for solidarity and community. That’s how I found Laila. It was so refreshing. Here was an Arab-American with roots in the Middle East who was free of partisanship, rigid ideology. She was just a human being. She didn’t denounce Jews or Israelis though she did stand up for justice. She didn’t embrace any hard political position. She just wanted peace.
As you know, I sometimes have a politically confrontational style. That was the only thing that divided us after she became ill. I would send her a link to some particular outrage I’d written about and she’d reply in her loving way: please, I need to stay positive. I don’t want to hear about the bad things. Tell me about the good. It meant that we corresponded a bit less. And that is the reason I didn’t know that she passed away on October 8th. When I learned of her death a few minutes ago I felt like I’d lost something precious. And this is a person I never even met in person. So don’t let anyone tell you that online relationships are any less powerful that face-to-face ones.
At one point, Laila and I were planning to get together on my next trip to the Bay Area. I so looked forward to meeting this powerful, pure voice for good. That won’t happen now. But that just means that I will have to internalize a part of Laila and her loving spirit inside myself. It will be hard because she was so good and so pure. But I will try.
Here is a passage Laila wrote on returning a year ago from a trip home to Lebanon. It will quicken your pulse:
“So please, friend, bless what you have and let go of fear for the future. Today is the only day you have got. You are breathing. Enjoy your breath. You are alive. Enjoy your life. You have a daughter and parents. Love them. Bless everybody who comes across your path. And the work? Whatever. Bless your work, too. Bless your town, your bills, your possessions. You are lucky to be here for all of it. If some of it gets taken away, well fine, something else will take its place. You are an amazing confluence of billions of variables and nobody else is having your life right this minute.
Enjoy! And don’t worry about hope. Just breathe and appreciate your breath. Everything arises from that.”
May her memory be for a blessing.