A Letter From A Mother To Her Son

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October 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary 



Our Gaza correspondent, Mohammad S. Arafat


I don’t think that the story of mothers told in this article is unique to Gaza where I live. I think it’s a story that can be found not only in Arabic nations, but in many other countries in the world, in London and perhaps New York. The names of the mother and the son are being withheld, for reasons I think you will find obvious. A friend of mine got this letter from his mother and it affected him a lot. You’ll see when you read it. His mother called her son harsh.

To my dear son who I loved and still love and will love forever.

I don’t know where to begin. I’m not even sure how to say it. But I know there are things that must be said. I’m talking about things that have been on my mind for a quarter of a century. You should listen to what I say. My neighbours tried to persuade me to tell you my story, your mother’s stories, in the way they thought best, but I realised I had to chose my way so you can understand what I have learned in this lifetime.

Mine is a sad tale. I hesitated to tell it to you because I was afraid to do so. I hesitated. But the time has come for me to tell you your mother’s story.

When I decided to tell you my sad tale, I got afraid and hesitated. But I think this is the most appropriate time to pour my life`s story on you.

First, your dad. He was a tolerant man before you were born. I had been barren for 10 years. I also never expected him to divorce me although many friends tried to get him to divorce me, and all these suggestions came with various kinds of advice on how he should go about doing it.

They told him to marry a new woman so he could get children. But your father kept trying to be a great husband, and I loved him so very very much. I think he loved me, even though I was barren, and he respected me. He died when you were just two years old, and I knew this is exactly what Allah wanted. We must accept whatever Allah gives.

When I finally got pregnant, your father and I were so happy. It was great news in our house. We were afraid you would come out paralysed or something after we had spent a decade trying to have you. Still, Allah gave us this blessing. He gave us a son with a perfect body. We were so proud, and expected a shiny future for you.

The pregnancy wasn’t easy. I suffered a lot. You were a heavy fetus inside my body. I remember one time I went to buy some tiny, beautiful clothes to welcome you into the world. Suddenly I fell down, and no one tried to help me get up. We were a poor family, and people could see that I was poor. They didn’t want to get involved. I stayed there for about an hour until I struggled to get inside a taxi and be driven home.

We suffered trying to provide the nurture you needed in the first few years of life. It was easier during the first two years when your father was with me. But when he died, he left me with a heavy mission that I don’t think all mothers could have tolerated. You were happy because you had my milk and you were happy, as I remember, and you got so sad when I stopped feeding you my own milk–because of breast cancer. You were not interested in artificial milk, but what could I do? That was your fate and my fate.

You probably don’t remember your father’s death. He had been the pillar that held up our home and held me up. When he died, everything collapsed. I expected that yo would grow up and replace him. For years, I hid my tears from you so that you did not have to cry. Yes, I did that for you. I knew you had to have had tears in your eyes as well, but I would not tolerate seeing you cry.

My dear son, you probably don’t remember when you got very ill. Do you remember how I stayed there by your side, night and day. Your pain was mine and I suffered alongside of you, fighting off my sleepiness. You looked dead, and almost passed out. Yes, it was a shocking sight for me. I was afraid I was going to lose you, shortly after losing your father.

You probably don’t remember how I used to tell you I had a very easy job that paid a good salary, so you would always be feed. I was lying, because I didn’t want you thinking about getting money. I wanted you to live safe and sound, with only simple problems. It was hard for me, but I suffered a lot so you could grow up having only the best.

Did you notice that I was hesitating about your going to kindergarten? The problem was money. But  you were sad, so I decided you would go whatever I had to do. I sold your father`s old bicycle. He regarded it as precious, and so did I.  I wanted you to achieve your dreams. That’s what your father wanted too. I thought you might become a really great man.

Can you see, dear son, that my words might be laughable at points, but that is only because I want you to smile a bit. You might remember that you were scared of your school? I enjoyed taking you to school, because it made me feel like a student. I even wore a school bag, I stayed with you for a month at your seat. I knew the school was not a scary monster. But I wanted to erase that fear. Who else would I have done such a thing for?

Do you know how I paid your tuition? I don’t think you know. I told you I was paying out of my salary, but that was not really the case. I borrowed the money from an old friend of your father. Both your father and I had one dream for you. It was that you go to school. So whatever we had to do, was done.

You had an accident one day while coming home. I passed out when I saw you, covered with blood. Nobody could find a pulse. I shed so many tears for you. I rode with you in the ambulance, and I don’t know how, I hugged you, a great warm hug full of my life force. The doctor told me you were going to make it. I wanted to make sure. I wanted that to give you all the warmth you needed. Have you ever forgotten that hug?

I hope you remember when you wanted to go to college. I was too old a woman at that point to work. You wanted a part time job. I got a job in a beautiful home downtown, working as a servant. But I was abused, in ways I don’t want to recount. One day I climbed a ladder to tidy up a shelf of books. A little boy in the family, a naughty little boy, pushed the ladder purposely, and I fell down and broke my hip. I cried out loud, but no one heard me. I knew they had heard, and were laughing at me. Finally, two boys came and threw me out of the house. I did this for you, so you could devote your energies to studying.

When you got your final certificate from college, I nearly died of happiness. I cried copious tears in happiness. Do you remember your graduation present. It was a bicycle. Do you know how I paid for it. I sold my dowry. It was the last thing left that tied me to your father.

Honey, do you remember your first job? I got it in part by going to all your father’s friends, who didn’t want to hear me. They knew your father was a poor man, who went to many friends of your father but they did not hear me. They all knew dad was a poor man who wouldn’t have been able to send his son to college. And I gave my blessings when you married that beautiful woman who every man wanted for his own.

When you had children, your father’s greatest dream was achieved. I was there to savour it, not just for me, but for your father. And you might remember I treated them like I had treated you. When they were sick, I slept with them. I fed them and played with them while you and your wife were at work. When she was pregnant, I became your family’s servant. Do you remember how I served you when your wife was sick in the hospital?

And now, although I was there for you as a child, a school student, a university student, a young man and a husband, and you are there in my home, I’m sheltering in a small woody room that a kind neighbour is letting me use as the cold rainy days approach. during the cold rainy days ahead.

You slapped me and threw me out of the house and burned my stuff and my clothing. What hurts most, you are keeping me from hugging any one in my family. That is truly cruel. I’m sure I have only a very few years or even months left. And what do I find out, a neighbour was a better man than my son. You threw me out because that was the only way you could satisfy your wife.

What a harsh son you have become. I know i must tolerate whatever you have done to me, because you are my son. I will still love you, I will forgive you for everything you have done to me. I wish the best for you and your wife, and I will pray to Allah that you never have a son who treats you as you have done me. I pray to Allah that he does not give you sons like you.

Your mother, forever.




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