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Christian Contemporary Fiction

The lost-found family 

I am alone.

Alone alone alone.

Once I had a family, safe in that rocking amniotic ocean, safe, safe, safe. And then I emerged, I flourished, loved by my precious family. What more wonderful. Loved. And we came together, specially, for Christmas.

That was then.

But they left me. No, that’s wrong, rude hard men took them from me, took them away; raped them, killed them. Guns, storm, fire. Wedding guests bombed from the west, churches razed from the east. Burka’d them out of the way. Oh inhumanity to all. To man from man. And woman too. 

For it was war. Military something. Destroying my family. Countless families.

So I was alone. My family was lost. I was lost. Alone.

Could I survive that? Could anyone? And I was so little. Just four.

Kind people saw me, they took me with them - my new family. We travelled fast, dodging the drones and bombs, the shock and awe, fast fast fast. And long long long, some were killed, we cried but we travelled on. 

 I have forgotten much. But it comes still in my dreams.

I was in a lorry, with my family and many others too, crammed, hard to breathe. 

My family said

“Be brave little one, we are nearly there. Much money but we will be welcomed when we arrive in the beautiful new country that will be our family. There, in our turn, we will help”.

“Yes”, I said.

More harder still to breathe. More gasping, terrified, terrified, terri… 

Nothing.

Air! Light from an opening door. Cross voices, angry looks. I looked to my family for comfort, where else?

They lay there. They did not move. I think they were dead. All of them. Just - dead.

I will not think of that. Maybe that other dream. A nightmare-dream. Of climbing the wall, my family above me reaching their hands to help me over the wire. But - the wire was too high, too jagged. But I would do it, I could - I could do anything while my family was helping. But the guns … And they …

Forget that.

On a stormy sea, shivering in an open boat. Freezing. Seasick, terrified. But I was with my family, so I was safe. And loved. With my new family what else could I need even in the stormiest of seas? 

“Be brave little one, we are nearly there. Much money but we will be welcomed when we arrive in that beautiful new country that will be our family, our home. There, our turn, we will help them and they will be pleased”.

“Yes”, I said.

I felt the water leaking, seeping, under my feet, I saw the terror in my family’s eyes, I saw my father and my mother fall in the water, disappear. Only three of us now.

Kind men came in a ship, they pulled us away from the sinking boat. “Just in time“, they said (they were not in time - my family … ). But they were kind, their smiles came from the heart, I was very very sad for my family that was lost but I could see these men would be my new family.

But when we came to the land - yes, they were right, it was a beautiful land, green hills, smiling welcoming fields - they gave us to other people whose smiles were not from the heart. Perhaps they were kind inside but their uniforms did not allow it, bureaucracy. It was sad, just surface smiles.

They took us to a refuse centre - “refuge”? yes that’s what I meant . Yes it’s all right, it’s officially recognised: “illegal”. The centre? No, YOU. YOU are illegal. 

Me?

“You can’t be here”.

But I am here. Look, look, a human, me; and my once-family was as well. 

It wasn’t so bad, they gave us food and a bit of warmth, and I had a mat to myself with only one hole. And those around me became my family. That was good. My family, the family I found there, was always with me. My old one too wherever I am, every moment of the year, apart-together. We whispered, we felt, “It is Christmas, we are together”.

It seemed long long long there in the refuse centre. My family said we were forgotten. They asked about it - “Do we no longer exist?”

“Don’t worry”, we were told, “Of course you exist, you are a STATISTIC, counted, recorded, reported in Parliament. You are in The Records”. 

We listened. I said timidly “I am - my name is - ”

 “It’s all right, we don’t need your name, you’ve been counted, data”.

“But I am …”.

Eyebrows, disbelieving, raised.

“You claim, huh, you were a choral singer and your family always … - irrelevant when you’re illegal. Yes unlawful, wantonly throwing yourselves in danger, unlawful danger” (so that was why my mother and my father fell in the sea and drowned? their fault; illegal).

“You’re best off ‘detained’, what else?”

But I’m me. I have a name, a family, a song, I can work hard, help my new beautiful country, why not? I am human, not statistic.

Well at least I am with my family here, not alone. 

One day they came. “Under age, you need assistance”. So something called  Social Welfare “administered” me away from the family that was helping me, was keeping me as myself. As a human.

So I was alone. Again. 

But I am human. And I can sing.

I can sing Christmas carols with my family.

I love Christmas carols. I love that they are about a family, a humble one, a holy one, whatever. Coming together at Christmas. I love it that all poor men and humble came to see the family, and three kings from orient lands afar came too. And at the end one said “I offer my heart”. That is so beautiful: “my heart”. Me too, I offer it to my family too, all my families, from my deepest heart.

And so, from that offer, I would never be alone.

But wait! maybe it was not so easy. Would my family, my families, accept my offer, my heart? It was hard enough to offer, hard hard hard. But harder still, I think, to accept that offer.

It would be a burden. 

If it was me I would find it a heavy heavy load to bear, to take those hearts and griefs upon me. 

And when I see that there are many many many hearts being offered, bad as well as good … not just my nearby family, not just my first one, not just the one to the left and the one to the right as I hang alone but many many many, all needing me to accept their weight, to save them: that load would be too heavy for me . 

Oh world oh world how often I would have gathered you to me as a hen gathers her family under her wing - her own dear family - but I could not. As a father touches the head of his child in love and pride - but I could not, it was too heavy for me. As a shepherd carries a lamb. But I could not, my family, when you were dead. Too late. How could I have the fortitude, after all that, the daring, to accept those hearts? There was only one of me. And - 

And then there was the family of all humanity past and present, all humankind. Their hearts too.

How could I be strong enough to take the offered, innumerable, hearts of that great family of man, of woman - their joys and sorrows, wonders, griefs; their faults as well?  And carry their burdens, their sins, for them? for the whole great family of the inhabited earth, the oikoumené, the human world? Unite as one family? At Christmas? Or whenever.

Could I accept those offered, pleading hearts? Take on myself the burden, the pain, would it not be too heavy? Even for sake of a family, to make it mine, to make it human, not statistic, a human family on earth?

Impossible. Too heavy, painful. I could not do it. Impossible. It would be impossible.

Was it?

Catherine Callend, Christmas 2022

Theme  A family coming together at Christmas

Tags  Today’s world; man’s inhumanity to man; the power of human love

December 27, 2022 18:33

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1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
01:13 Jan 04, 2023

This was very thought-provoking; thank you for taking the time to share it.

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