Black abayas litter the ground around an evacuation truck near Mosul.
It was late, near bedtime, and I’d just sat down to an unimaginative dinner salad, all I managed to scrounge up at the end of a long day. Two bites into it, my mother called.
“I have to do something. I saw the video on the news. This video…”
She paused and I thought maybe we’d lost a connection.
“I don’t think I can say it without crying. I saw a video tonight of the women. They had cast off their black veils that ISIS made them wear and the veils were scattered across the desert. They were scattered, hundreds of them, on the sand. They stretched into the distance behind the trucks. The women--they threw them off as they fled into the desert. And now they are starving but they were smiling. Because they are free. But they are starving. I have to do something.”
She wept. I wept.
The story of two women crying together is not unusual or exceptional or transcendent. But if you knew my mother… well, let me say this… I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen her cry. She is the fiercest, strongest, most amazing woman I know. But tonight she saw what you see every day on your journey with us. Tonight she felt in her heart what you feel every day when you do this work of love with us.
And she was profoundly moved by it. She said, “I have to do something for you and your work family. Tell them I’ve got their backs and if I could go, I would go there myself and do it, but I’m 78 and I’m too old.
So I will help from here. Your people are my people.”
The author (left) and her mother.
I smiled while tears rolled down my face because I could picture her there in Iraq with her fiery red hair and her rough gardener hands and her sun-baked skin. She would squint under the desert sun and lift heavy bags of food with the strongest of men and haul water for women and wash the faces of babies.
She would see them and love them like you do—with your hearts touching theirs.
She would have done it at 20 or 30 or 40 had she known. She would do it now at 78 if she could, because she is mighty in spirit even if she is slowed by the passage of time.
We talked for an hour about specific ways she can help like becoming a monthly sponsor, starting a fundraiser, or buying candles or soap that empower people to rebuild their lives. We ended the call smiling and laughing as she made plans to enroll her senior after-church domino group in the cause of loving across enemy lines.
I cannot wait to see what she and her senior citizen brigade do with us. With you.
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