The night we forgot how to grieve

This story is true but some details were filled by the writer’s imagination. the writer didn’t witness the story but learned about it firsthand from one of the characters. All names are replaced.

The border cross

Yazan, a 5-year-old child, needs a medical operation.

It’s a simple operation, but the family will need to travel to perform it.

Gaza is been under siege for almost 2 decades now, the whole strip lacks resources that can meet people’s basic needs.

Saber (the father) asks the family to pack up, his wife and two kids join him on a trip to the borders in Rafah.

Egyptian authorities didn’t let them cross, they had to turn back.

Saber looks at his little child and thinks of his pain and suffering, he decides to try again and again.

The soldiers and officer yell at them, hit them, insult them, nothing is breaking the spirit of a father who is trying to save his child’s life.

The authorities decide to let them in, but only the mother and the two kids, the man is a risk to the national safety, all men are.

Jana (the wife): I’ll take care of the children, we will get the operation and get back, don’t worry about us.

The family hugs and says goodbye, Jana holds the hands of Yazan and Yazeed (the other kid) and walk across the borders.

Saber stands there watching them as they go, happy his child will be treated but sad his family will be away for a while.

Going back

Yazan is on the phone with Saber, telling him how happy he is to be healthy and pain free after the operation.

Yazzed is interrupting and adding some details with a proud smile on his face, he is only 3 years older but he feels proud to be play the older brother role.

Jana hands the sandwiches she just finished preparing to the kids and takes over the phone, she tells her husband that she misses him and she will be taking the kids back to the strip next morning.

The kids and their mom at the borders, trying to cross but they are told they can’t, they plead and beg, after a while they get detained and later released.

They head back to the borders once again, only to experience more violence and inhumane treatement, those kids are too young to witness both of their parents get beaten up in front of them by soldiers, maybe that’s why yazeed had a bloody nose and passed out.

The war

It’s been 2 years now, the kids write to their father, they get to see him sometimes over a call when Saber is lucky enough to have electricity and internet for sometime and the kids happen to be home at the same time.

The two kids go to a non-official school now, with a young teacher who is underpaid but loves the fact that her career is helping expand education access beyond the official system.

They always tell stories about what happens at the borders when they try to reunite with their dad.

Amina (the teacher) is glad that they are away from harm’s way and can have a life that is closer to what a child deserve, but also feeling bad that they can’t see their father or be granted a better life back home.

The war starts and with relentless bombing and massive attacks on the strip, it’s becoming harder and harder for the kids to talk to their dad.

One day Jana calls Amina, Amina thinks she will tell her that she is picking up the kids earlier or later that day, but this was not one of these calls.

Jana just found out that her husband and many of the neighbors and relatives died in a bombing few days back.

The plan

How do you tell a kid that their dad was killed? especially those kids?

How do you tell a boy that the person who they have dreamt of reuniting with for the last two years, was buried under the remains of their house.

And how do you stand strong and tell them you are there for them, because the truth is, neither Jana nor Amina are able to fathom the situation.

Amina takes the kids home to their mom, the mom hugs them and tell them their dad died.

Yazeed doesn’t show any expressions, “Really?” is the last word he said and the shock on his face is all what you can see.

Yazan cries and hugs his mom tight, making his mom cry again.

It’s a moment of concentrated grief and pain, a moment that will live with them for the rest of their lives, shaping every other memory they live from that moment on.

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