I have found it terribly hard these last few weeks to watch the news, read the paper, or scroll through Facebook without seeing images of the devastation that Syria is being subjected to. We are then confronted with ‘those’ images of little Aylan and his brother, washed up on a beach, their bodies bloated and pale. The arguments in the media followed, should those images be shown? Where should they all go? Migrants vs. Refugees… and the list goes on, when will this stop?
The hypocrisy of which country should take what percentage of refugees, and that’s what they are, refugees, people fleeing war. People seeking refuge and safety. The morality of ‘numbering’ people is a stark wake up call, well it is for me anyway. It is a reminder of those treated inhumanely in Auschwitz. These are people who had a home, had a job, had a life, but now have none of those. Their homes no longer recognisable, their lives destroyed. I cannot imagine what it is like to know that my family was in such peril. I wake each morning in a warm bed, with my head on a pillow, not a cramped, dirty, concrete floor. Children should not see deep fear rooted in their parents faces and children should not witness violence, destruction and death on any scale. Children should not know such fear.
William never knew fear, never knew what it was to be hungry, never knew what it was to feel cold, to feel the cold that those children must feel on those boats, making those long, arduous treks for hundreds of miles on an empty stomach, freezing cold. How must it feel, to really know that this is a better option than what you are running from. What would you do if the street you lived on looked like those in Syria? Your ability to feed your family diminished, your life torn apart. If that was me, I would undoubtedly get as far away as I could, it wouldn’t matter what country, it wouldn’t matter how I got there but I would hold my little boy safely against my chest and I would walk until every ounce of energy had been squeezed out of me. Would I get on an over crowded boat to make the most treacherous journey of our lives? If what I was leaving behind was a one way ticket to death then the answer would be yes. If I had no other option then I would do anything to get William to safety. To watch the news, to see those photos of those brothers and many other children washed up on the shore, the perilous sea taking no prisoners makes me realise how lucky I am.
I lost William, I lost my purpose, my reason for living, but one thing I do know is that for each of those 382 days William never knew fear. As a parent can you imagine the utter terror you must witness in order to put your child at risk knowing that staying on land meant certain death, very few reading this will know that intensity, decisions no parent should ever have to make. A responsibility that comes the day you fall pregnant, responsibility for another life, to love, to nurture and to protect. I sit here now and close my eyes and I cannot even comprehend the position Aylan’s father and many others must be in.
Putting all political arguments to one side, I know people’s views are mixed on the humanitarian crisis that is happening. Throughout the industrial revolution, whilst the world economy grew, it was not distributed evenly. The refugees are just like me and you, and more importantly their children are just like your children. Those families experience the delight of finding out they are pregnant, the euphoria or holding their baby for the first time, the joy that comes with their milestones. Just as I go to work in the mornings, so do they. As a mother stays at home and looks after her children, so does a mother in Syria. We all want the best for our children, the best life, the best food, the best education, to keep them safe but those of us living in the western world do not really know what it is like to want real safety for our children. The difference between life and death.
So, Abdullah, from one bereaved parent to another, you did your best, you did what you thought was right, you tried to get your family to safety. Just as I did with William, I did my best, I did what I thought and was told was right, I always made sure William was safe. But we both know these things don’t matter, because their lives fall in our laps, when I look up at the stars this evening I will know that you are underneath the same stars. When death knocks on the door we were both powerless. Now our boys play in Heaven with no boundaries and no fear.