Under the Same Sky
Hummingbird: On the day I met Sarah, I woke up early. I couldn’t stop thinking of the moment we would finally meet. I was on stage rehearsing with the other World Pulse Correspondents when Sarah entered like a force of nature, her energy filling the space. An elegant and kind lady approached me, exactly as I had imagined her. I couldn’t hold in my tears; I was overwhelmed with affection. Her arms surrounded me tenderly and firmly. It was one of the best days in my life. Feeling lucky is an unusual feeling in my life, but on that day, I felt so lucky.
Sarah: I remember what seemed like an interminable escalator ride, and then I was walking into the room and Hummingbird and I were flying into each other’s arms, basking in our mutual joy. I felt proud as I watched her, strikingly beautiful in a formal, white, Syrian Kurdish robe. I saw the audience at NYU melt while listening to her story as they gained a sudden, heightened awareness of Syria and the truth of what is going on there. Her voice joined Neema from Congo and Stella from India in their awe-inspiring determination. As she left the stage, she was immediately surrounded by a small crowd, and I moved protectively to her side, all my motherly instincts at the ready.
Ten days later, the World Pulse Live tour arrived in Atlanta, Georgia and I drove from southwest Florida to connect with them again. We all revel in each other’s company, learning, laughing, respecting, admiring, and listening. Hummingbird and I sit on her bed, talking like two girls at a pajama party. The next morning, we weep as we say goodbye. But I feel that we’ll see each other again before long.
When my mother dies a month later, my sister Lizzie and I are at her bedside, shepherding her with daughter-mother love from this life to whatever reward comes next. When she takes her last breath, I hear myself wailing from that primal place, some part of me wanting to go with her. My mother! My mother! From across the world, Hummingbird sends deep love and comfort. This we have in common, too: we are well acquainted with grief.
Hummingbird: As Sarah mourns the loss of her mother, I enter into deep grief each time I hear that another soul in my country has flown up and away. With each soul I feel part of myself ebbing away, never to return. Innocent people are being killed in horrifying ways and I am overwhelmed by the relentless injustices and sorrows plaguing Syria. Worst of all are the tragic deaths of children. That is when I feel my heart being ripped out. I am worried all the time for my family. Two massacres have taken place in the area where they live. By some miracle my family has survived, each time moving to another area, in hiding to avoid death. Death has become a subject that all Syrians now know intimately, including me. I tell Sarah that many Syrians no longer want to live.
Out on the street I find another cat and soon I bring him home. We call him Mocha, and I email his picture to Sarah to lift her spirits.
Sarah: In July of 2013, Hummingbird comes to the United States to attend a workshop for Women in Public Service at Bryn Mawr College, Alma Mater of my mother and sisters. Hummingbird texts me photos of herself walking through the same, magnificent, stone archway I’ve seen in 70-year-old old pictures of my mother’s graduation in 1942. When the workshop is over, Hummingbird comes to Florida for three days to stay with me, and to meet my husband and our two dogs, at last. I can hardly fathom the privilege of having her under our roof. . . .