Forced Migration, Providence and the Road to Haven
I write about forced migration for a lot of reasons, and a key reason is to keep myself and anyone interested from becoming despondent and disconnected with the world. But when a friend dies, all bets are off. Nothing feels the way it is supposed to, and disconnection becomes completely justifiable.
Yesterday a good friend died.
Death is, in a way, a form of forced migration. Almost all religious people believe in a journey of life into death, of crossing over the Jordan, of entering Paradise or the Promised Land or, I guess, Hell. But those same religious people believe in a god or a force making that journey happen, even when the person wants to live, a force pushing that stubborn guy across the river, telling him, “Get your butt to the Promised Land, like it or not, sonny.”
My friend was Romanian. He was born in Bucharest and became an engineer after college. Under the communists, he could still engineer, as long as he engineered whatever they wanted. But after Ceausescu came to power and the country’s economy had altogether crumbled, my friend had to make money any way he could to support his family. He drove rich women around the city, he sold popcorn at the park.
When I met him, communism had fallen, and he and his wife were struggling to keep food and adequate shelter. But they had a love for the street children in their neighborhood, and after creating an organization with some American friends, the two of them began taking in abandoned children to feed, tutor and care for them.
It has been twelve years, and my friend leaves behind dozens of children who have overcome abuse and disease, gone to school, and attended college and special skills schools. They speak English and Spanish, play guitar, sell artwork abroad.
All the while, he did whatever the day brought him. Whatever the communists told him to do, or what his wife and son needed, or the people claiming to rebuild Romania, or God. He had fewer choices, really, than we envision people having. He was, as us religious people tend to believe, forcibly migrated through this life.
I always wondered when he would get to rest, and stop driving children everywhere they needed to go and cooking meals for them and teaching them math and manners.
My friend’s widow, who is also Romanian, sent the news by e-mail. In her broken English, she misspelled Heaven. She said he had gone to Haven.
And that is in fact exactly where he went, no longer sojourning wherever the road forced him. Now politics, poverty and Providence don’t migrate my friend blindly through life. Now it is only Providence.