L’article qui suit a été rédigé par Jacquie Bridonneau, que je remercie. Une traduction en français suivra dans quelques jours.
On Tuesday, my little cousin, Tom died. That sounds brutal, doesn’t it. He died. He passed away. My little cousin did that without warning anyone of what was happening. How could he do that to us? How could he do that to his wife and daughter? Well I suppose that it wasn’t planned either; he “passed away unexpectedly” as the obituary says, but still.
When I say little, I just mean that he was about a year and a half younger than me, so for me, he’s my little cousin. Not that little anymore; he had just turned 64 less than two weeks ago, but that doesn’t really change anything, does it? He was coming back from work, and going to pick up his dog at the doggy day-care center and had to pull over because of either a heart attack or a blood clot, no one is really sure of what happened actually, and someone found him and called the rescue squad but it was too late. At least it was quick, but that didn’t make those last few seconds or few minutes any less terrifying for him I’m sure.
When I think about Tom, I think about us when we were little kids, my sister and I, Tom and his brother. They only lived a few houses down the road from us, we went to the same school and Tom and my sister were in the same grade. So many Kodak moments hardwired into my brain of Christmases past, birthday parties, other family get-togethers. Typical American middle-class family things, but those are the kind of things that shape your personality for your entire life. Ordinary things, nothing special at all, just life. Which he no longer has. But no one forgets things like that, they are just as much a part of us as the feet we walk on, the ears we hear with - well you can see what I mean here.
I of course, couldn’t attend the funeral service, because I live in France, but my mom told me that it was packed, and that the pastor gave a very nice talk, saying something she had never heard before, that just like when a baby is born, it leaves its mother’s womb to go into the world, a type of death in one place, to be born elsewhere. And that when someone dies, the person leaves this life here, to be reborn in heaven. This sort of led me to think about all of our migrants who are leaving, fleeing I suppose is the correct word here, their lives in Syria and Iraq, hoping to be have a new life here in Europe, a type of rebirth for them too. The memories they have, the good ones and bad ones, will always remain a part of who they are too. It’s going to be an uphill battle for them, even those who know how to speak some French, English or German.
About a month ago, I went to a play here in our little theater in Conches called “Un Fou Noir au Pays des Blancs” with Pie Tsibanda, who gave an entertaining account of how and why he fled from Cameroon to Belgium. He was known as the crazy black man, because when he arrived in his little town in the French speaking part of Belgium, he took a chair and put it in the middle of the village square and sat down, so that others would come and talk to him, introduce themselves, but of course, no one came. That’s just not how things are done here. But he went on to have a very successful career in Belgium, brought in his whole family, who seem to be well integrated into the European way of life.
Coming back to our migrants, it’s not going to be easy to do this for the vast majority of them. It’s going to be a very long-term project for them, for us, for Europe, and let’s just hope that for their sake and ours too of course, that they’ll be able to succeed their rebirths here. Will it be a better world than the one they left? That remains to be seen.
So from my little cousin Tom to the migrants, just like the mythical Phoenix who rises from its ashes, death someplace, rebirth somewhere else. Rest in peace, Tom.