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

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Walking humbly

I knew I had to do it- even last night as twilight gave way to darkness. But the frustration was still close to the surface. The feelings. And I found a myriad of reasons to explain my behavior, to ease the sting of my wrong done. Somehow, peace just would not come and so it was, I found myself wrapping my arms around her this morning, hugging her tight. I apologized then- for the way I handled my frustration last night. For what I did unkindly, in the heat of a moment. I asked her for forgiveness. And she offered it, freely. The ones we love the most are the ones we hurt the most frequently. And sometimes we forget that in offering those two little words ‘I’m sorry’ backed by heartfelt meaning we find the perfect way- the only peace-filled way in which to live, love and practice the art of forgiveness (that ancient art of letting go and loving wholly).

Forgiveness is a well-worn path leading to love.

Recently, I was ‘somewhere’ with our family. I am going to try to keep this vague so as to protect anonymity. Namely mine. I happened to be walking away from the washroom when I came across a person from my past whom I have not been able to speak to nor face up to for years due to a history of hurt between that person and my immediate family. There is a history here that goes back far with turbulent waters that run deep. There have been wrongs done, words spoken, vengeance taken. On both sides of the fence, perhaps- depending on whom you talk to. And over the years, I have believed that I had released the burden of offense that this person (and the persons who stand with them) had brought me. But yet, I still lived in fear of facing this person. What would I say? What would that person do? How would I react? What if I started to crack up under the pressure?

The binding of this offense from years ago still has a choke-hold on me.

It is not that this person makes me feel angry. It is fear mostly that I feel. Fear of the unknown, fear of what could happen, fear of humiliation. Fear of facing this person. I am reminded of that verse which states that perfect love casts out fear. To be exact, the words of this verse say this: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man (or woman) who fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4: 18, NIV) I wonder- what if I practiced loving this person instead of channeling my energy into fearing them. What might transpire were that to happen?

I can tout myself as being a loving person but if I cannot love my enemies, the love I offer is shallow. Who wouldn’t find it easy to love those who treat us well, those who build us up, edify our character? It is easy to love when love feels good. So much harder to love when the price is our pride, our image. We shouldn’t love solely when it is easy- we must love when it is hard. For in loving, we are free. But this is hard work- it require discipline.

I have found in recent years a yearning in my soul to exemplify love in my life. This love is not my own- it is God’s love channelled through me. It is supernatural love of a divine nature. And because I feel the power and presence of love in my life, I am free to love others in the very same ways I too experience love. Unconditionally, liberally, wholly.

In thinking about the offence I have felt over the years, one of which I make mention of above, I am humbly reminded of the offences at times that I have caused. At times, unknowingly and at other times, purposefully. If I am in any way offended by those who have hurt me, how much more then are those whom I have hurt injured by my offence to them? In being human, we are prone to hurt one another by our very nature- one does not have to look far in the news to find evidence of this. We are a hurting people. We live in pain. The freedom from which comes through forgiveness.

I wonder how much of our pain would be eased if we could only take the initiative to bear the weight of any offence committed against us through arms of love. What a humbling exercise- accepting responsibility to start the reconciliation process even when we haven’t been the one who wronged. This is not to say we must accept responsibility for wrongs done which we have not committed- it is just to say that in love and through grace, we can make the first move. This is biblical principle. For we see through scriptures over and over again that love is the antidote to the pain which breeds fear. Not that love can eradicate pain- but it can help us cope with our response to pain. True, there will always be those in our lives that inflict on us the brutality of injustice- but it is the reaction to such that determines the load we end up carrying. My response to the offender is what determines the pain I carry in my shoulders, in my body. In my heart. The release is found in forgiveness.

We must let go and in love move forward.

Recently, a very special woman shared with me her decision to go to someone who had deeply hurt her and how she found grace to offer a hand in love to this person. Just today, I read of a woman whose former husband murdered her three baby boys before turning the gun on himself. And yet, this hurting woman found strength in time to forgive this man, thus releasing her own burden of despair. I think of a man in our own community who offered forgiveness to another during his own family’s darkest hour. And in my own life, I have found the greatest peace has come through laying down my own agenda and rights so as to walk in peace with another human being. So as to walk in peace with my God. I am daily reminded through these and other stories- that it is in releasing our fear, our pain and choosing love in spite of the tremendous odds that we find supernatural strength to forgive.

It is there in the peaceful still that we find quiet, humble grace.