At each door, I opened it and he peered inside, calling out names when he didn't see his loved ones. I stayed close because it was my job, but also because I was eager to watch their reunion. We chatted a bit as we walked, although his English was limited. I asked about their journey from Afghanistan, how long they'd been traveling. I told him how glad I was that they had made it safely across the Aegean.
But my feel-good-moment anticipation started to wan as we reached the end of the row and had yet to find his family. "They must be on the next level," I assured Aslam. "We'll find them." But they weren't on the next level, or the third one, either. "They must be outside in the camp," I said as I walked him back to the gate, hoping I was right. "I will pray for you to find them."
There was another man, this one from Syria, who had been waiting at the refugee camp with his little boy for weeks and is probably waiting there still. I never met him but kept hearing his story: how every day he roams the camp, looking for his wife who hadn't made it across when they did. "They're doing psych evaluations," whoever was telling the story would always conclude. "He's being taken care of."
The old expression for someone who couldn't quite face reality was "touched in the head." Touched is a gentle way of putting it; in this case, that dark angel took someone from him who was so close that the sickle lopped off a good-sized chunk of him when it took her. There's a sweetness to the sorrow of a man still looking for the wife who isn't coming, a sweetness and a horror in a little boy who still thinks that mommy is on her way.
Hours later when our shift ended, we passed Aslam on our way out of the camp. "Have you found them?" I asked. He shook his head. "You will," I said again, even as my heart prayed that it would be true. "Inshallah," he replied.
I cringed at that. It's a phrase as common to Muslims as breathing, and I've said it myself. But my heart ached at the thought of a concept of God that sees reuniting a man with his family as something he might not bother to give his attention to, might not care about at all.
But you, my God, have never been indifferent to the plea of a single heart you have made. You seek your children until they're found. You refuse to give up on your long-lost bride. No storm, no border, no red tape or razor wire can stop you; not even death can keep you from doing what you've promised. Oh, refuge of our souls, bring peace! Swing wide the doorways and help us welcome more home.