“We’re more compassionate. We have more empathy,” she said. “We look at each other... with a different set of eyes,” Danny finished Leila’s sentence.
Both parents pointed to the strength of their faith and prayer life before the accident as something which has helped during this time of suffering.
Danny and Leila, who are part of the Lebanese Maronite Church, had started going to Mass together during the week, not only on Sunday. Danny would also take their older kids to Mass before school.
They prayed with their children regularly and recited the rosary. On Fridays, Danny brought their oldest daughters and son to feed the homeless at a local shelter.
“I wouldn’t let them have dinner [before], so they could feel and experience a bit of hunger before they would come,” he said. “I’d say no, no feed them first and then we’ll go out for dinner.”
The Abdallahs said the biggest change to their prayer life, since losing their three children, has been a deeper understanding and experience of the suffering of Christ.
Danny criticized an overemphasis in some Christian circles on the glorious, resurrected Jesus without any focus on what came before.
“That’s one thing I love about the Catholic Church, they really talk about the suffering Jesus and apply it to our lives,” he said. “With or without Christ, we’re all going to suffer.”
“This grief and trauma that we’ve experienced, it’s actually taught us [about] … the suffering Jesus, the theology behind it, and how we can apply it to our lives, because no one has done it better than Christ in his suffering. He’s the one that showed us what to do,” Danny continued.
Both spouses emphasized the importance of forgiveness in marriage.
“A lot of people end up divorcing because they don’t know how to let go of their anger or they don’t know how to put their guards [down],” Leila observed. “But... forgiveness is the key to a long-lasting relationship, it is what keeps your marriage together.”
(Story continues below)
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“Run to each other and try and understand each other,” Danny added. “The wide path is running away, but go to the narrow path. It’s a lot harder, but it’s more rewarding … You know, we forgave and we chose to forgive and everything like that, but the pain hasn’t left us. We’re still experiencing the pain daily, but [forgiveness] gets us into a better place.”
Leila and Danny said they cannot wait to be reunited one day with all their children in heaven — that has become, more than ever, their purpose in life.
“Death can’t be avoided, it is part of life. So we might as well be prepared and ready and embrace it because, if we are ready to meet the Lord, it is going to be one of the most amazing moments in our life,” Leila said with a smile on her face.
“Can you imagine the presence of Jesus? And God is so real. If anything, nothing is more real than God and Jesus on this earth.”
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.