On August 3rd 2020, one of Sami’s sons, Osama, contacted me by Facebook. In a short time we agreed to make a video call. (On previous video chats I had already met Samer and Susan (my namesake), two of Sami’s five children). Leen, his seven year old daughter, was particularly interested in me and spoke better English than her father. She wanted to come visit, “Because everyone speaks English in America,” she said. I told them I was sorry I couldn’t come next month due to Covid-19, but I would visit as soon as it was safe to travel to Lebanon. In each of my video calls with Susan, Osama, Samer and their families, everyone told me how much they loved me and couldn’t wait for my visit. They call me “family.” They call me “Auntie Susan.” It’s only natural, because their father, Sami, was a best friend and like a brother to me. The love conveyed over the video calls was palpable. In our earlier chats we cried, appreciative of the rare fact that we even found each other after I lost contact with their father almost 50 years earlier. I had learned in the first contact that Sami passed away 21 years earlier, but his wife Ciham was still alive. I told the family of my memoir and how I wrote two chapters dedicated their father. Osama smiled when I told him that I will come to visit when things are better and bring the six books I have saved for them.
We spoke briefly of the plight in Lebanon as their government was in free fall. They have electricity about 3 hours a day due to the diesel oil issues, and meat was $40.00 a kilo. This is a country and its people living on the edge.
The very next day, August 4th, a blast equal to a nuclear explosion ripped through the port of Beirut. As soon as I heard the news, I messaged Osama and Samer and both replied that everyone was fine and fortunately no one worked in Beirut. They will have periodic electricity because their families have generators. If could hop on a plane today to help them, I would.
The amount of unfettered love between me and my newfound family in Lebanon – a family two and three times removed, a family I have never met – is hard to fathom. The single thread that connects us was my friendship with their father and grandfather, Sami, when we lived and worked in a remote village in Liberia 50 years ago.
Call it fate. Call it God’s will. Call it the alignment of the stars. Call it whatever you choose. I will eventually meet, hold, and cherish – in person – my new family in Lebanon.
It is another kind of love. One I could never have imagined happening to me.
An Unfettered Love – Part II will follow in my next blog. I welcome any of your comments. Stay well.