Letter to My Mother in Gaza

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Dear Om Mazin, it’s been more than five years since we were in the same room together and I miss that very much. Every passing day, I think about the joy of being in your company and in your eyesight. As a little boy growing up in Gaza, things did not always make sense. Back then, I loved your attention, your care and your endless love and now yearn for it as a grown man. I miss your laughter and your folksy wisdom. Reflecting back at that time, I knew all along that I would be okay as long as you were nearby. No matter how crazy things have become in our volatile land, you were always my source of comfort and sense of safety. I sense all my other siblings felt the same way, so I love you for being able to do all this for us and to be so many things for each of us. You give and give, and I know words may fail, but you do not.

I miss your scent and that fragrance face cream you used to apply on your soft skin. I miss all the empty bottles of perfume that you hold onto and used as a decoration. The little things that live within me will always remind me of the affectionate mother I had. To me, you were always that person I went to when I needed advice on life or school. You always had only my best interest at heart. I was your agenda and you were my moral compass. I remember missing the moments with you even when you were upset with us, you were so loving.

It makes me happy when I think of my little girls sitting in your lap at our family home. They have yet to meet you and for you to spoil them. Because you always told us, the only thing that is dearer than one’s children is their children. I know you have raised all the ten of us and you did an amazing job in very difficult and sometimes depressing conditions, but you remain so generous and you stepped in to help raise the grandchildren who love nothing more than your company and treats.

Today in my new adopted home, we honor mothers this weekend and I know you and I talked on the phone back in March when we observe it in Palestine. However, mothers like you deserve more than day, frankly, your calendar should be filed with gratitude to you for all the joy and happiness you have given. Sometimes, I wish we could spend more time together so we could get to know each other better. I left you in Gaza more than 18 years ago and both of us are changed. We hardly resemble our old selves. Gaza certainly has gone to hell and back, yet I miss it. Maybe it is my memories, and my younger self I miss most. I have always thought home is where one’s mom is. As you know, when we tried to go and see you in Gaza last February, our plans did not work out as the gate to Gaza was closed earlier than promised. I will never forget how worried you were for us and for our safety traveling through the Sinai. We promise to try again.

During our last call, you shared with me some bad news, which is out of character, as you usually hold back from sharing with me anything that would worry me. I understand, life has become more difficult for you, your friends and for Dad’s business. You told me about that little boy whose only food is chili paste. You informed me of a well-respected neighbor that has been reduced to asking strangers for help in the local mosque. Perhaps the story that touched me the most is your friend who traded her nice Abaya for food. I am sorry you had to sell your earrings to help bail out a family member from his financial burdens. I know how much those earrings meant to you. I will always remember how beautiful you were wearing them. I wish you had told me beforehand so I could help. I know your dignity is a big deal. I am saddened to see the great needs in Gaza; it breaks my heart and inspires me to do more.

Mom, I have been privileged to work for an American group that works together with people from the US to extend a lifeline for families like ours in Palestine and in Lebanon. They do a great job partnering with the local community and coming up with creative solutions to complicated problems. I know you heard my work trip stories, but this is to go and thank all the wonderful people who care enough about families like ours with their financial and morale support. I want you to know that I do care and love all of you, and I am not the only one. There are many incredible human beings who feel your pain and send you their solidarity, positive thoughts and prayers.

So this is to say thanks for being the most amazing human being I have ever met and soon enough if they open up the borders and grant my little American family a permit, our big family will be made whole again, maybe then I can walk with you and stand tall in your shadow.

Love,
Hani

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