A Letter to My Children About Alan and Galib Kurdi

My Own Precious Four,

The air felt chill and brisk as I headed to the local dairy bar with ‘two in tow,’ for one last treat before school officially begins on Tuesday. One had an English Toffee Milkshake and the other tried her luck with the Nutty Chocolate Dip. We watched the server hold the decadent cone of cold, creamy ice cream smothered in nuts and dripping, rich chocolate upside down, so as to let the excess drip off into the bowl underneath. It came to you with a hardened shell of chocolate shellac. Prime real estate for little girls with eyes bigger than their tummies.

We drove home contented tonight, bellies full, hearts tender.

Did you know on the other side of the world there lived two little boys, who up until mere days ago, craved as their favorite treat a half a banana? Their father would purchase one banana which he would split between the pair. One half for Alan and the other for Galib. Perhaps, my loves, they ate it like candy — just like you with your creamy dairy bar treats.

We came into our house, shivering with the temperature drop of dusk and flicked a switch. Behold! Light flooded the kitchen, welcoming and warm. One of you played with toys we had earlier retrieved from the basement…toys which we should really get rid of (through one method or another) as your toy bins and cubbies overflow with trinkets and gadgets galore. But you pleaded for them to stay, and I acquiesced. You spent a lovely half hour chatting with your newfound furry friends, who had been beforehand lonesome for company due to all that time spent waiting for you in the dark recesses of our bottom level.

Did you know that Galib, who was five, would have done just about anything to get his heart’s desire: a shiny, new bike. He just recently asked his aunt: “Auntie, can you buy me a bicycle?,” because all he ever wanted was to run and play and explore like all the other kids. Having extra would never even have registered in Galib’s mind. Because having just one would surely have been more than he could imagine.

I went back down to the basement after making steaming cups of tea for your Daddy and I…with one more saved for your older brother. One of you asked for sips of my fragrant brew (flavoured with sugar and milk), stating that it was “mmmm…my favorite kind”. I savoured mine while sorting through all our extras in the basement that we plan to sell in the yard sale tomorrow. I had you try on skates that were too small until we found just the right fit from our burgeoning stash saved for figure skating lessons upcoming in October. We placed the near dozen extra pairs in a bin. Because we just don’t need them anymore.

Did you know that Little Alan, who was three, wore little black shoes? That he favoured red t-shirts and shorts on the last voyage he would ever take? Did you know that his eyes sparkled when he smiled? That he was so loved…just like you are, my loves. Just like you are.

It is quiet now. The children all settled, candles both blown out. But I can still smell the aromatic scent of “good cheer, golden apples and spice” laden heavy in the air of our kitchen. It is almost stifling, this sweetness and beauty. It smothers my senses. For in my heart I know that there are others for whom good cheer will not be reality. Not now. Perhaps not ever.

There are precious others in this world who have never seen “a good life at all” nor will they this side of eternity.

We have so much. And yet we understand the bounty of that ‘much’, so very little.

My dear Children, do you know how loved you are? And did you know that because you are so loved, you must also love others? Must love them with that same intensity with which you have received? Love requires we watch and listen. Love requires sometimes we cry. It also demands action. We must love, for we are loved ourselves. We must care because we have known care in ways that defy understanding.

We know love. We must find it within our hearts to also give it, one small act of hope and justice at a time.

My dear Four: Alan and Galib are gone, their souls departed. But we have their footsteps to trace. These tiny tracks leave a legacy of love. A legacy of hope and possibility. For Alan and Galib are Love’s Ambassadors. And so are we, my loves. So are we.

I love you so. So then, I say to you: “Love one another.

Always and Forever,

Your Mama

Brokenness is better than a hallelujah

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God loves a lullaby
In a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

She was just a mess, broken pieces, shards of glass. And as she sat on a bridge one fine October day, feet dangling over the water’s edge, all she could think of was how much she hated him. How much he drove her crazy. They would never make it, him and her. They were too different. Too opposite. And he didn’t understand her- what made her tick, what fueled her tank.

God loves the drunkard’s cry
The soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Months had passed into years, and she had all but given up hope. Things were just too far gone. There was no hope for this situation- they would never get it right. Some things were not meant to be. And they were one of these things: mismatched, unevenly aligned. Two people going in two different directions.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

She had talked about it for quite some time to the one person she trusted the most with these kinds of details. And that person had supported her through it all, but had also stipulated that they believed God was in this marriage, even if the Girl didn’t yet see it. That person said they were praying. They could see the best in this impossible situation. The Girl wasn’t so sure. In spite of her limited faith, the hope that the One Praying had, seemed to do for both of them.

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Besides, it was not due to wrongs that either she or the Man had done to one another in any moral sense that this Great Divide had been created: it was due more to those little hurts that come by way of more intangible situations. From depriving one another love, from holding back. From the cold that grows inside a heart that is turned off love. And in time, little hurts like these can give way to bigger ones: anger, resentment, fear, insecurity, sadness, isolation, anxiety, panic and loneliness.

The tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

So when she found herself telling him that she wished it was over, wished that she had never even begun, it was almost like the floor had finally given way in a dilapidated old house that had served its purpose one too many years. Everything fell apart.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And while I still don’t know quite what happened, I can say that one day the Girl woke up and there was a change in her heart. She couldn’t quite put her finger on the exact moment, the time and day. But she knew somehow, someway- something had changed. She was different- and so was he. There had been something miraculous happen to bridge the Gap between them, something had toppled the massive walls that had been erected to separate, fortresses made from the strongest of materials. Something had changed between them. They were no longer enemies, at odds with one another. They were friends.

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out

The Girl and the Boy tentatively adjusted to their new life, lived in freedom from the former chains. Chains that had once held them captive and enslaved to their own self-serving interests were now broken. They were gone. And the Girl and her Boy lived in peace with one another, free to love each other. Free to love themselves. And free to serve one another in love.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And because they had witnessed nothing short of a miracle, it was right to tell the world. That their broken mess of a marriage had been made into something beautiful. Just like a broken hallelujah from the lips of one breathing their last. Just like a melody from one who has lived to see another day. Their lives were a living testament to grace. Their lips could do nothing less than sing of God’s amazing grace.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

When we share with one another the brutal in our lives, along with the beautiful, we are able to clearly see the truth on which our lives are built. Unashamed and unconcealed. Broken and free. We are unchained melodies.

For we are more than just the pretty details we show one another in social media, more than the cute pictures we post on Facebook, the funny stories we share in our news feeds. We are more than just the casual “I’m fine” that we say so flippantly when asked how we are doing. We are people with real lives, real stories. Real pain. And none of our lives are perfect. None of us has that market cornered yet. We live lives of suffering that can be marked on a continuum that measures the varying degrees. And none can judge the shoes another walks in because we cannot ever know the pain we feel inside. Cannot really know the emptiness of wondering, “Is this all there really is?” This has to be one of the greatest points of despair in a person’s journey: wondering what is the purpose of a pointless life that seems to be heading nowhere. This is grief at its lowest, this is emptiness in its fullest.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Can we believe this truth?
Our lives are better than a beautiful melody sung by angels.
Our tears are better than a hallelujah uttered in church on Sunday morning.
Our cries are better than an Amen.
Our rage is better than apathy.
Our anger is better than indifference.
Our acknowledgement of the brokenness of our lives is better than a hallelujah.

Bearing truth to the messy, complicated in our lives is better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

(It’s better than a hallelujah sometimes)

Words to the song “Better Than A Hallelujah” are written by Amy Grant