I don’t know how to write this without crying.
So I’ll cry and I’ll write.
It’s summer break. I wake up to baby snuggles. Afternoons I clean up the goop left behind from three year olds intent on making their own PB&Js because I’m a big boy now thank you very much, and then I cuddle each evening with all three and hear my newly literate eldest son read me stories before bed.
It’s also Ramadan. The kids settle in most mornings with crayons and glitter for Ramadan cards to exchange with friends. We document good deeds. Read Ramadan stories. We snack on chocolate and dates as the day comes to a close, before we brush our teeth for bed.
I teach them to be good. I teach them to be kind. Be a doctor. Be an artist. Be an architect. Be a chef. Be whatever you want to be when you grow up but along the way and all your life be kind.
And then I wake up Sunday morning, a nice long stretch of shut-eye thanks to the spouse who watched the kids. Ready to offer a pancake breakfast for the wee ones. And just like that sleepy summer feeling vanishes. I read the news. During Pride month. During Ramadan. In my hometown. A man walked into a night club. He murdered 49 people.
As I did after Sandy Hook, Aurora, Charleston, the rest of the day trickled by in a haze. Today, I stared at the news, the texts from one of the victims, telling his mother he loved her. He called her mommy. Like my middle son calls me, curled up in my lap, twirling my hair. I love you mommy. Those will be the last words she will ever see.
I’m haunted by this mother’s grief. Surely, she too cuddled sleepy mornings with her son when he was a baby. She cleaned up his spills. Surely he too read her stories. She loved him. I know that love. Now she grieves.
As all mothers I’m terrified of the evil lurking in our midst. As a Muslim mother, after the events last night, I am terrified of the world my boys will grow up in. It’s not the first night I’ve lost sleep over the future. And with the current climate, with violence regularly inflicted on people who just might “look” Muslim, and flippant remarks tossed out by politicians nostalgically remembering the internment camps of our recent past, I’m afraid it won’t be the last.
I’ve never met this man. I don’t know who he is. As I’ve written in the past, I shouldn’t have to apologize for his actions. And I shouldn’t have to condemn what happened, because just as any act of murder and evil, just like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Charleston, ofcourse I condemn it. I condemn it. I condemn it. I condemn it.
And yet last night I stared at my phone. I thought of my friends. My beautiful friends who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Some who have held my hands in the most difficult of moments. Friends who I’ve vented about the book journey with. Friends who have brought me food when I was still in my post-baby haze. Whose children I love with all my heart. That a man twisted my faith, and invoked it when he committed this heinous act…. I admit I felt a whisper of fear reaching out. I reached out anyways.
And they responded with love. Compassion. Kindness.
As Lin Manuel said last night at the Tonys, love is love is love is love is love.
To my friends and readers who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community please know I love you. I am sorry you are hurting. I am sorry you are afraid. Just as you have always supported me, please know I will always support you.