TESTIMONY – Claire and Fabien Safar a year ago, on November 29-30, 2017, together with their five children experienced an event that would forever mark their lives: little Symeon joined his brothers, coming into the world suffering from a trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome, a chromosomal condition associated with abnormalities in many parts of the body) that sentenced him in advance, managed to survive only for a day. A life that might have seemed over, but instead never ceases to develop through the members of a family that has discovered the very essence of God’s love.
An experience like this, at first glance, Claire and Fabien Safar would certainly be spared. Yet, between the moment of the announcement of the birth and that of the funeral of this child named Symeon, many graces have allowed this Franco-Palestinian couple, who already had five young children, to live these few months in abandonment and love. A love that today makes them live and made them grow in the understanding of God’s compassion for every man.
Claire agreed to meet us and talk about her last child and the graces that continue to rain on this family that has chosen to put God at the center of their life.
On November 29, you celebrate Symeon’s birthday and this event seems to be a joy for the whole family. How is joy possible when one experiences the illness and the death of a child?
This joy, in fact natural, is made possible because from the announcement of Symeon’s illness we made the choice to accept this reality and to live it to the end trusting in the Lord. And above all, we felt such love during his development in the womb and its few hours of life that, even today, this love can only give joy.
We prepared this anniversary with joy. There was a cake, some balloons but also the Holy Mass that was celebrated by the godfather of Symeon, who is a priest.
So, was love stronger than suffering during pregnancy and Symeon’s very short life?
I think I can answer yes. An experience like this is obviously painful and I cannot hide the fact that I had difficult moments, but I was also very amazed by all the graces we received, which made me touch very close the love of God and the love of brothers and sisters.
First of all, when I found out I was pregnant, I felt something was going on. I had already had miscarriages before then and I was afraid that on this occasion it would have been the same. An initial examination revealed an anomaly and I immediately understood – even before the doctor confirmed the diagnosis – that it was trisomy 18. For me this feeling was like a way for the Lord to warn me, to prepare me. When the final diagnosis was made, we chose to live this pregnancy as intensely as possible and to give all our love to that little creature that was growing in the womb and whose life could have stopped at any moment. From then on, our family life has benefited from this desire to live every moment in love. The children made drawings for Symeon and placed them in the part of our house reserved for prayer. They prayed that he’d live 3-4 days. Even the doctor, who was affected by my choice (a very unusual choice because therapeutic abortion is automatic in Israel in this type of situation), has suggested that I come more often than expected to do regular ultrasound and see my child.
I must also say that living this experience with the Israeli medical profession – and of Jewish faith – was ultimately positive, because, even if they accepted with amazement my choice and Fabien to keep the baby and to accompany him until the end, they gradually understood our logic and told me many times how much they were affected by our approach.
At birth, Symeon was very weak and we all thought he would die immediately, so the doctors placed him on my body and, more precisely, on my heart. And this because the child had already had his head close to my heart for much of the pregnancy. However, after ten minutes, our son began to cry and take a more regular breath. That moment after birth was absolutely incredible. We were lucky to hear him cry, caress and above all to exchange looks. We had the Church’s consent to be able to baptize our son and it was Fabien himself who baptized Symeon. Moreover, his godfather could come to give him the sacrament of Confirmation.
That day I really understood how the sacrament of Confirmation was a given sacrament. His clinical condition was so satisfying that it was decided that I would have to rest some time in a neonatal unit. I slept a few hours until morning and when I woke up, I went looking for him, he immediately opened his eyes. But after a while I realized that he was getting tired, I tried to contact Fabien without success so that he could get there quickly with the children who had not seen him yet, I tried to stimulate Symeon to keep him going until the arrival of his brothers and sisters and later, after having realized he was not going to survive, I told him: “You can go, I will tell them that you love them.” And his earthly life is over.
When Fabien arrived at the hospital, he learned the news and told the children that Symeon was already in the arms of the Blessed Virgin. The hospital gave us a space for us eight, and each of us could hold Symeon for a few moments. I do not remember this moment as a sad one, but I remember above all the love that reigned and that was really palpable.
So, it was so “easy” to lose a child?
Oh, no! I can tell you the hours that followed when I could not stop crying. At that moment, accepting the methods and habits of the hospital was really painful for me and I appreciated the support of my family and the fact that Symeon had a Christian funeral preparation. Then the day of the funeral arrived, and it was a very beautiful and wonderfully quiet moment. I explain this peace only with the grace of the Lord.
And today how do you live all this?
I identify Symeon at the end a gift. It is he whom God has chosen to teach us to love. We call him our little “apostle of love”! It is as if the love I have received and given so far has been transcended, as if we had understood the very essence of love. With him we have truly touched the reality of the cross that Jesus endured before resurrecting, we have understood that the resurrection can only go through the cross. And we live this resurrection very concretely through the communion of Saints. Symeon lives with us, we entrust our concerns to him, he is the little guardian of each of the other five children. Of course, this does not prevent moments of sadness, life remains life, with its difficulties and its fatigue, but our family and our couple received and still receive graces of peace, joy and love through the presence of Symeon in our family.
Interview conducted by Cécile Klos