Amy Roberts: Compassion without borders
Anyone who reads my column with even a marginal degree of frequency knows about my sister’s battle with brain cancer. I’ve written about her unabashed hope, her strength, and courage. In the weeks before she died and after, I wrote a couple of columns that gutted me. It’s been over a year and a half since she passed, and the pain still raw. I’ve written about that. And I’ve used up some ink writing about how her death shattered me, and coming to terms with knowing I will never have all the pieces to make me whole again. My heartache has been a topic in this column more than once. I’ve been honest, and candid, and vulnerable.
I’ve written often about my sister’s battle with cancer, and my battle with grief. But what I haven’t written about is something I rarely ever talk about — that losing my sister was actually not the very worst part of it all. The very worst part was watching my parents bury their child. Knowing that no matter how devastated I was, two people I love were even more broken than me — that was excruciating. It was and is impossible for me to love my sister as much as my parents. No matter how close you are to a sibling, you will always love your own child more — it’s human nature. And knowing that a pain even worse than mine existed and was inflicted on my mom and dad hurt more than my sister’s death.
Throughout Heather’s battle with the disease, I watched my parents desperately try to save her. If a cure had cost $1 hundred million, they would have robbed a bank. If a cure came at the cost of their own lives, they would have gladly given them. If a cure could only be found in North Korea, they would have snuck across the border and risked it all to keep her alive. No consequence would have mattered, as long as there was a possibility their daughter might live.
My parents are not unique. In fact, I think most parents are like this — willing to sacrifice themselves and their own future for the sake of their child.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately as I watch the news and the debate over immigration, and the unimaginable terror our government has doled out with each separated family. Even more disheartening to me is the people defending it. In every corner of the internet, on every stool at the local coffee shop, there are people I know justifying the separation. “It’s simple: If you don’t want to be separated from your children, don’t cross the border illegally,” is the gist of their argument.
But of course, it’s only simple to those who have never lived in fear of losing their child. For those who suffer that daily emotional panic, it’s anything but simple.
The mothers and fathers fleeing their countries seeking asylum are not much different from my own. They know the consequences and have weighed them against the risk of staying where they are. The possibility of watching their child die is far worse than going to jail.
Nobody wants to be a refugee. But as bad as that might be, raising children in a place where bombs, bullets, rape, drug lords, poverty and kidnappings are daily threats is even worse. It is basic human instinct to flee a burning building, and it is within a parents’ DNA to push their kid out the door first.
For those who suggest being separated from your child is the logical punishment for breaking the law, I envy you. I envy you because you have never been threatened with losing your child. You have never known that level of desperation, you’ve never had to find the resolve to do anything you can to save them from such a fate.
While I hope these people never have to experience that kind of heartache, I hope even more they can find compassion for those who do. Humanity isn’t political. Mercy should not be limited by borders. If you have ever uttered the phrase, “I’d do anything for my child,” you are no different than those who are right now doing whatever they have to for theirs.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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Jay Meehan writes in remembrance of his favorite camping partner.