A little girl with shiny black hair cascading down her back was awakened from her deep sleep. She rubbed her eyes and obediently followed her parents into the courtyard. Her easy and compliant nature harmonized with the meaning of her birth name.
In the courtyard, she was motioned to remain seated with her siblings and cousins. The adults quietly gathered in one area and had a private conference to make some final plans.
Little did she know that this was the Final night. There were speculations of their homeland about to be seized. A rampant spread of communism could be underway. This could be one of the final days of this decades-long civil war. Were these just speculations or were they reality? Should they stay to face their fate or should they flee? These were the choices her young parents faced that one dark night.
When the meeting adjourned, her father came over and disclosed the news to them. They were going on an incredible journey. This journey would take them to Afar.
Into the night, the father shepherded his family down a narrow winding path. The vision of the full moon reflecting on the still water caught the little girl’s black almond-shaped eyes as she followed him. The floating orange moon kissed the gentle water and whispered down a tune of tranquility. As this moon-kissed water danced, its reflection illuminated their dark path. She felt safe with her father. She didn’t ask him too many questions.
Holding tightly onto his firm hand, she followed his steady paced. Slightly ahead, she saw her younger sister. She caught a glimpse of her sister’s feistiness and her unwillingness to seize her mother’s soft petite hand. Her little sister inherited that fiery spirit from their paternal grandmother. By only 10 months difference in age, her little sister was all fire. If looked deeper into that heart, it revealed her soft and gentle soul. By now her little sister was too tired to wrestle, so she decided to obey the gentle guidance of their mother.
The father carried their little 5-year-old brother. His dimpled face was buried into the father’s shoulder. Being the baby of the family, his spirit was definitely carefree. They all took care of him. Like the wind, he swayed in different directions that he pleased never stayed firmly to the ground. He was not mature yet to realize the use of his force.
The 3 siblings were very close in age. Only 21 months separated the oldest from the youngest.
They were the 3 chopsticks. That was what their father referred to them. He often shared his wisdom by creating his words into images so that they could relate to his stories. He would hold up 1 chopstick. Broke it. Yet, easily broken in half. He took 2 chopsticks. Broke them. Yet, can be done but a little more difficult. He would then hold up 3 chopsticks. Each long pieces of these wooden chopsticks, he pointed out, represented the 3 of them. He held up 3 chopsticks. Together they were unbreakable. United.We.Stand. Divided.We.Fall. These words somehow echoed in her mind as she travelled down this path to the unknown that night.
Off into the distance, she heard loud explosive sounds. Her father quickly redirected her thoughts, fabricating his story that it was only firecrackers.
The dancing orange moon she observed earlier was now invaded by this heavy mist hovering over the water. A different tune is now being whimpered in the air. The reflection of the placid moon was overcast with the turbulent fog now barely lighting their path.
She could barely see the end of the path. Upon reaching the destination, she realized a small boat anticipated their export.
Her parents masked their sorrows as they guided their 3 young ones on that boat. They didn’t want their children to see the despair and fear they felt that night. They just abandoned everything they possessed: their beloved country, their parents, their culture, their home.
They put all their Faith on this journey to Afar. To this land that promised them freedom. They made this sacrifice because they loved their children. They gave their children this gift.
As the boat slowly pulled away to the distant, her mom stood there looking at her children. Silent tears trickled down her mother’s face.
She was in disbelief.
She felt emptiness.
She felt estranged.
She prayed for her children.
Now on this April day, exactly 35 years have passed since that dark night. That little girl with shiny black hair cascading down her back has grown to a young woman. She has now 4 children of her own. On this dark night, as she put her own children to sleep, she told them the story of a Gift that was given to her. She explained how this Gift is also for them. She hoped that they could understand.
She hoped that they Believe.
She hoped that they feel Blessed.
She hoped that they feel Loved.
She said a prayer with them.
Perhaps, there was a reason for that one dark night 35 years ago. Perhaps, it was the only way to make her realized the true meaning of her Father’s love. Perhaps, it was the only way she could understand His sacrifice. She thanked Him for this Gift. She stood there looking at her children. Tears of joy trickled down her face.
She feels Blessed.
She is Loved.
She said a silent prayer.