Every once in a while an image comes along that is so powerful, so heart-wrenching that it stops us in our tracks and physically rips us from our first world lives. Right now, mothers across the country are bending over to weep for the children of Syria. We wail alongside the family members who have given their all, given their very lives to try and obtain the freedoms we so casually disregard.
The photo of the poor drowned Syrian boy and the story of his family is one we will all have trouble forgetting. Although most, if not all of us, will never experience anything like this in our own lives, in the cold darkness of the night, we can imagine their horrors. The mother must have been so afraid for her children as the icy waters swallowed them whole. The mother’s dress and headscarf, wrapping around her body like a heavy death shroud in seconds. With no saviour in sight, her air-starved lungs shrieked their death wail. The screaming, so much terror, and people flailing in the water – all of them trying to live and hold on to their loved ones.
As we first world mothers put our children to bed tonight, we will take a moment to think about all of the loss. Drowning women and men grasping tiny arms in their hands. Those cold, cold hands, so different from the soft and supple limbs we hold in our own laps at bedtime.
While we do our school runs and complain about laundry and the lack of food choice in our pantries, Syrian parents are praying for a way to keep, to save their children. This week they watched them slip away. We all watched them drown.
The family of that little Syrian boy died that day, three of them in the water and the father who still breathes, they are all dead. The water was not safe, they knew that when they embarked on their journey. But staying in their country was much more dangerous still. They couldn’t endure the war, the hunger, and the constant fear any longer. They stepped on the boat with optimism and hope for a new life. They prayed they would find welcome from other nations when they came safely ashore.
This week the entire world saw their tragedy and the red shirt she chose to put on her child that morning became the symbol of needless death. A world rallying cry founded on such a terrible, senseless loss.
Tomorrow morning we living mothers will wake up again. Like any other day, we will feed and dress our children and send them on their way to safely do their day-to-day tasks.
But let us all take a moment to remember the other mothers in the world. Those who cannot wake from death. Those who wake to face the living nightmare of dead or war-maimed children. Those who will pack up their meager belongings and flee towards their only hope for life.
That hope is us.
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(Illustration by Islam Gawish)