My heart has felt very heavy this week. I’ve been carrying around two little boys me all week. Two little boys frozen in time. Two little boys I don’t even know. Two little boys who drowned and washed ashore last week in Turkey: Aylan and Galip Kurdi. I debated with myself whether I really wanted to write this post. It seems almost selfish to write a post about my perceptions as I sit here comfortably in my home in America, but I wanted to share something about how I was affected by their lives and their deaths.
I was very unprepared for the images of little Aylan, the younger of the two brothers and the subject of the photos that were published. I had been listening to the news stories on NPR during the latter part of last week, and come home Friday night to continue reading the story online. And then I saw the pictures.
I had an immediate and visceral response to them. I cried. I cried hard. I cried hard, alone in my room, for a solid 30 minutes. Because when I saw the pictures, I saw my own little boys. Little velcro shoes. Little boy clothes. But all wrong; the context was all wrong. My motherly arms longed to reach into the screen in scoop that little boy up. I longed to hold him close to my heart. I could simultaneously feel the weight and the void in my arm span.
Then I imagined myself in their place. When faced with all that was going on in Syria, I could see myself coming to the same conclusion. I would need to protect my family and get them out of there, at all costs. I could not fathom the soul-splitting pain that father felt as every thing he loved quite literally slipped from his grasp. It felt as if there was an intercontinental echo, in which his pain reverberated within my consciousness.
I cried for their whole family. I couldn’t help but feel the shrieking injustice that because of no special skill, talent, or inherent goodness on my part that I don’t have to endure that pain. Simply the pure luck that I was born and live in a country where I don’t have to make those kind of choices: whether I will stay in place where death would surely find my my family or embark on an equally dangerous journey to escape that fate. It’s like a cubist painting, where you can look at all the different sides and angles at once and they are all painful. Every facet is equally terrible: the human tragedy, the parental loss, the lack of choices.
I don’t know how to make sense of something so bad. I have nothing to offer in the way how I am supposed to make this world better or what actions I can take. So I’ve decided that I will keep them with me. When I hug my two boys, I am also hugging two boys I never met. I will pause for Aylan and Galip, instead of moving on quickly to the next thing that will “take my mind off of things.” I will let my mind linger on two ordinary little boys, and those who are in similar situations. Instead of looking away from the tragedy, I will look into the eye of what is actually happening in our world. I will bear it.