Family can bring us the greatest joy and cause us the deepest pain. I suppose it is because family was intended to demonstrate love unconditional in all of its messiness and all of its glory. Love. It lies at the heart of a family. Love can bring us the greatest joy and cause us the deepest pain.
Barely two months ago, my family experienced our deepest pain. The bright light that was my mother’s life was snuffed out by cancer that had attacked her brain and lymphatic system. A comparatively brief but seemingly slow and assuredly painful battle ended with her peaceful passing into the presence of God. We have battled physically, spiritually, emotionally against this aggressive disease only to bid my mother farewell until the next life. By God’s grace, we are upheld and able to face each day as it comes, but emotionally, our hearts still suffer deep and painful wounds, fresh as though her passing was just yesterday. To see the impact her beautiful life left on so many gives us hope to cling to life and live it to the fullest for the glory of God, as she did. We are wounded but hopeful because we trust God is working to redeem this painful situation even now, as my mom lives now in His presence.
As we woke again this morning, clinging to that same hope, we experienced another loss.
My father, a Peruvian native, met my mother, an American, while they were working in the Middle East twenty-five years ago. Their journey led them to live in both of their native countries for a time but also to make a home in North Africa, Mexico, and now the United Kingdom. Consequently, their children feel as though they are “global citizens,” having learnt to make a home in each place they live but never feeling as though they fully belong in any country or culture. My parents, Juan-Carlos and Gale, have been living in the United Kingdom for the past five years, serving as charity and religious workers in this country. My sister and myself left the family to go to the United States for university studies and other schooling a few years ago. The completion of our studies coincided with our mother’s diagnosis of cancer, so after wrapping up things in the USA, we flew to Manchester to be with our family and help care for them and our mother as she was fighting cancer, not knowing that those months would be her last. Concerned that my sister’s tourist visa would expire while we still battled my mother’s sickness (and mine too, later on), we applied for an extension of our visas to remain with my mother as she fought cancer, not knowing when we mailed off the application, that she would pass away the very next day. After informing the Home Office of my mother’s passing, we requested that they still consider our application and allow us a year to be with our family while we grieved the loss of our mother and to help my father and younger siblings as they establish new routines and we all grow accustomed to life without my mother. This leads me to our second loss.
Today, we were informed that our request for extensions of our visas were refused, meaning that within one month, both my sister and I will have to leave our family and return to the United States. Barely two months after my mother has died, the UK’s border agency has decided to divide my family again. After losing wife and mother, my father and younger siblings will be losing their daughters and sisters. Our lives once again are in upheaval as we shift into a mindset of preparing my father and siblings to continue life without us, who have been helping them greatly in adjusting to home life after my mother fell ill. We are at a loss, and I will admit, I am hurt but part of me is also deeply unsettled.
Based on adherence to regulations, humanity has been forfeited. And compassion has been lost. For what we were asking for was compassion, that the UK Home Office would look upon our applications with eyes that see the lives held in the balance beyond the words on paper. Today, after losing my mother, I found out I will be losing my family too. Believing God is working even in this, I am trusting Him and know that wherever I go, He will be too, and He will be also with my family while they have to endure another loss and adjust to life without a complete family so soon after my mom’s passing. By God’s grace, we will be alright.
However, what disturbs me most is knowing we are not the first. In the UK, I have heard many stories of people who have been divided from their families because of government laws dictating strict immigration policies. While my own personal experience is mostly limited to the UK, I am aware that it extends beyond the UK. There are countries all over the world that hold displaced families that are separated from their loved ones. Because of laws. Because of policies. Because of institutions that dictate our identity. Call me a liberal when it comes to immigration, but I don’t see how it can be right to separate families and eradicate people from their support systems in the name of the law. Yes, I understand the need for each country to provide for their citizens, promote a sense of order, and protect their own. We sadly do live in a world filled with deceit, hatred, and chaos that cries out for order, and governments work to maintain some order in a mad world. I recognize that.
Call me an idealist, but what if we moved our own eyes beyond only our own to provide for others, promote others’ well-being, and protect others beyond our own borders, whether political or personal? Being a “global citizen” or “global nomad,” I see the world much differently, for the country that claims me as “one of its own” (for which I am very grateful) was “home” to me for only a few years, leaving me finding home all over the world but mostly where my family is, which happens to currently be in the UK. I think what I am trying to argue is a worldview that regards all those of this world as occupants warranting the title “global citizens,” all of us human, all of us in need of love, support, compassion in some way or another. All of us have had mothers and fathers, family. All of us have surely lost something or someone in some way or another. All of us are in need of a place to call home, even if it is for a brief time to be the support our family needs and be supported by them during a time of great loss. All of us are in need of compassion.
Being an idealist, sometimes I get quite frustrated with the state of our world, but let us keep it simple. It starts with you. And it starts with me. The UK government is forcing me away from my family at a really delicate and painful time for all of us, but I choose to continue to embrace those that they call their own during my time here and after I must leave. I will continue to care for those beyond my own borders, and I will continue to make sure that you or that any other knows that they have a home beyond their own borders, because you are a global citizen, just like me, a human, deserving of love, support, and compassion.