Our Muslim Friend Next Door

1:44PM Tuesday - The fourth floor of Cedars Sinai, North Tower, transitions from a Peds floor, with the NICU at the far end, to a neuro floor on the west side. The nurses stations and food services run through the middle of the floor east to west, with pods of four rooms nestled in outcroppings of the exterior wall on both sides. Odd number floors on the south side, even on the north. That means that Liza has never seen a sunset and has always had three neighbors. I have not seen one of them that is remotely Liza's age, most quite elderly, many with memory issues. 

Our current neighbor to the right is a kind, gentle, 80 year-old, Muslim man named Dau. He seems to be a California native. Lovely man. I quite enjoy talking to him, which as of now has only been twice. He suffered a stroke a few days ago and has been here recovering. He's married but his wife is somehow unable to visit him as of yet. He speaks very slowly but is quite sharp mentally. His memory seems perfectly intact. And he hates needles. 

I spoke with him briefly last night and enjoyed my short talk. Just now, he was making some loud noises and the nurses were working with him to get him in a chair to eat his lunch. The racket was such that I stepped out to see if I could help - but it was just over. So Dau (spelling? pronounced Dah-eww) and I began talking. 

I started with small talk and then he took over and quickly turned to things social, cultural and then religious. I was silently listening, leaning in the doorway when his extended monologue ventured over to Christian "preachers." Excuse me, but this is how it went. "They are all pimps," he said, "hucksters, two homes and ten million dollars." He went on to talk about Jesus, the cross, Mohammed, and the Comforter. I was smiling. I really like him and I love conversations like this. 

I entered the room from the doorway and perched on the walker set by the door. I said, "Well, Dau, I'm one of those Christian preachers you're talking about." His eyes widened with surprise. He stopped eating. I pulled down my mask so he could see my face and continued with a smile, "And, my friend, I don't have two houses or ten million dollars. I live in a comfortable little house with my family and pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. I also disagree with a lot of what you said. But I respect you and am enjoying our talk." 

Our conversation really picked up at this point, all cordial, happy, light and friendly. I really like him. He is quite a handsome man, his kinky white hair receding from his forehead and reappearing in his beard. He dove into Jesus as the Son of God, and I followed because this is a major area (perhaps the biggest) of disagreement and confusion. I tried to make the truth plain: Jesus is the "son" not because God had a son, as in generation, but because the "Son" is a descriptor of the relationship between "Father" and "Son." He wasn't created. He actually liked that. We talked about the Spirit. We talked about religious history. We talked about the cross. We talked about sin. We talked about faith. We talked about racism, prejudice and respect. 

I really like Dau. He makes me smile. His big eyes convey a strength and poise that I admire. He seems tender and kind. I told him several times that I did respect him, as this seemed important to him. I listened to him. He listened to me. Sadly, he seems very committed to his misunderstandings of Jesus. Yet it was the best kind of adult conversation, a respectful exchange of religious philosophies and epistemologies. But, just eight feet away through an open door, Liza was in a lengthy exchange with Nurse Stephanie. I really wanted to be aware of this conversation. Dau's lunch was also getting cold. So I picked up his napkin, which had fallen down, gently got him settled and excused myself with a respectful tap on his shoulder. He delayed me with another short chat, in which he asked my name. With that I said goodbye for now.

I'll remember Dau for a long time - in my prayers and in a collection of fond, unexpected encounters here during our stay. I hope we have more to discuss. 

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