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COVID-19 Ramadan Diaries – Locked Away From My Children

Editor’s Note:

Covid-19 Ramadan is really different. Throughout the holy month, we will be publishing diaries shared by our network of writers and contributors that reflect on challenges, lessons or blessings they find in this extraordinary Ramadan!

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You know how they say to look closely underneath every emotion and you will find fear? When I learned that I would be locked out of the country, away from my children I had a first thought.

Well, maybe this will give them an opportunity to better appreciate me. Then, I immediately dreaded thinking: What else? What were the possible learning opportunities for me?

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In March I came to Istanbul on a one-week vacation without any of my seven children. Often, I take one or two with me when I travel, but this was purely me-time. Towards the end of the week I received word from a friend working in the airport that Morocco, where I have lived for the last decade, would be closing its airspace soon. Maybe I had as little as 48 hours to get home. 

Calling the airline for hours, changing flights “tentatively” through a third party, rushing to the airport to confirm—it didn’t matter how fast and hard we tried, it was too late.

With dozens of other bewildered travelers we left the terminal not knowing when we would ever be allowed to leave, to return to our families.

Quarantined Taksim Square Istanbul April 2020
Quarantined Taksim Square Istanbul April 2020

‘Mom, when will you be home?’

I tried not to let my children know how uncertain our reunion was. I gave them the most optimistic news as it presented:

First: “There are still flights on the roster a week from now. The ticket agent said maybe I could get on one of those.” I was also being told airport closures in Morocco could last through September.

Then: “They think this will be about two weeks.” Istanbul then shut its airports too, adding two weeks to that two weeks.

Another time: “They want to repatriate people before Ramadan.” I knew in my heart that this pandemic was too great to allow Ramadan to be an excuse to put lives at risk.

This time, I have gone from waking up, wanting to call my children everyday to forcing myself to call them when it is so painful to look at them. Some days I have to beg the little ones to come away from their Minecraft game so I can enjoy their robust cheeks and sweet foreheads.

Other days none of my older children will answer their phones. I am shut out. I imagine the pain my children must feel, being abandoned, and I become nauseous. My faith in qadr gives me logical peace. I know there is great good in this immense trial. But it still hurts.

Maiden Tower and quarantined waterfront Istanbul April, 2020
Maiden Tower and quarantined waterfront Istanbul April, 2020

Time teaches all?

I’ve been stuck in Istanbul, away from my children for a month and a half now. There have been a couple of news reports that Morocco is organizing to repatriate its citizens.

I am a legal resident of Morocco, but unable to reach anyone at any consulate here, or in my native USA, I don’t know if I will even be considered for repatriation flights. There are also reports of travelers needing to be quarantined away from home after arrival. It will be some weeks before I hug and kiss my children again, insha Allah. 

What has been my second thought about this trial, being forcefully and abruptly separated from seven children? I didn’t appreciate them. 

I took it for granted that my children will always be there. That I can call them to me and they will come. That they can wait for me while I do this, that or the other. I objectified them. I simply lacked full gratitude for having these children.

Maybe now I better know how blessed I am to have these seven dynamic hearts irrevocably tied to mine, continually overflowing with opportunities to feel, learn and grow with. Insha Allah I am now in a position that I am better learning what gratitude is.