Love Beyond Boundaries

On October 29, 2022, my sister’s husband of 40 years, Sami, died after a long and painful struggle with cancer. I was so moved by Sami’s perseverance in the face of the bureaucracy that is the current medical profession and in awe of the bravery and dedication of my dear sister, Susan, in helping him through these last years, but particularly the last two months.

But that’s not the story I want to tell. I want to tell not about the end of their relationship but about their relationship and about what that relationship suggests for the rest of us to admire and emulate.

Sami Abdul Fattah Assadi was born in Safed, Palestine. He was a man of the world—living in Palestine, Syria, Italy, and the United States. In 1948, because of the Nakba (The Palestinian Catastrophe), he and his family fled to Syria. At 17, Sami moved to Italy to study where he absorbed all things Italian, attaining language fluency characteristic of a native. In the 1970s, Sami moved to New York City where he drove a cab, sold shoes, and absorbed the life of Manhattan. One night in 1983, he met this beautiful, passionate, brilliant Jewish girl who was born in south Alabama but whose parents were displaced citizens of New York City. I believed her when she told me at the time and I believe her today: when they first set eyes on each other, they knew that they had met their soul mates. Forty years of marriage, life in the city and in Scottsdale where the desert reminded Sami of the landscape of his original homeland, a wonderful daughter, Hannah Lillith, and two beautiful granddaughters, Aurelia and Ciel, enriched his life. I remember vividly the great pride that exuded from Sami at Hannah’s graduation from Columbia University. the love in his eyes as he played with Aurelia and the look of awe as he gazed into the eyes of little Ciel, even close to the end when the disease had sapped his strength. And what he meant to my sister is beyond words.

Their story is the perfect antidote to the stupidity, cruelty, and violence we are seeing and reading in the news. Sami was fully aware of the political and social horrors around him. With his experience, how could he not be? But he also knew what really mattered; he loved beyond boundaries and without notice of other’s expectations or prejudice; he believed in peace and that there were shared values for humanity. My sister echoed all those beliefs and feelings; they were in fact soul mates. We should all aspire to such a love, and we should honor what they created.