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I Cannot Unsee What I Have Seen

“Ears that hear and eyes that see—
    the Lord has made them both.”

–Proverbs 20:12

I felt my sore throat before I got on the plane to start my trek home. By my connecting flight my nose was running and by the time I walked in my kitchen I was full-fledged sick. It came fast and furious, took me by surprise, and laid me out until today. Typically I can push through, keep up with my basic tasks while feeling generally bad, because moms don’t have the luxury of days off. Not this time.

It’s as though my physical state has mirrored my emotional state. Since coming home from the Texas/Mexico border I’ve felt disabled. Overwhelmed. Confused. Ashamed. Angry. And plain sad. Typically I can articulate my emotions quickly. This has been a fog of feelings I haven’t been able to sort through. They overlap and accentuate each other. Their borders are blurred as they feel like one big darkness. In conjunction with the tsunami of information we received about the immigration system, most specifically around family separation policies and unaccompanied minors, my mind goes twelve directions at once. Typically I can whittle things down to a few bite-sized talking points. Not this time.

I have felt raw. An open wound walking around trying to make sense of the reality that is my life in the context of new information. I saw things I cannot unsee.

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the facilities we visited, but I carry the images in my mind. Fathers with toddlers in chain link fence boxes big enough to hold dozens of people at once. Yes, cages was the term that seemed most fitting. Mothers with infants. Boys and girls with no adult guiding them through this process, other than armed guards, separated by cyclone fencing much like a dog pound. Men and women locked up in what is termed a “Detention Center” yet by all appearances functions as a prison. Their crimes? Seeking asylum from violence their own governments could not protect them from. I saw tears and exhaustion and the blank stares of trauma. I saw children sleeping on mats on concrete floors with Mylar foil blankets covering their faces. I saw the vulnerable.

And then I come home and am sidetracked by a bad cold. And the stark contrast between what I saw and what I live was clear despite the fog of feelings. What if I felt like this on a bus coming from Honduras? In heat? Hungry, thirsty and sleep deprived? Afraid of the people behind me, next to me, and waiting for me? How do I process my own children snuggling up next to me, rubbing my back to comfort me? Within arm’s reach? My bed. My children. My schedule. My home. My safety. My freedom. One huge contrast to what I witnessed.

Since returning my nights have been a constant wrestling of sweat, the cold working itself out of my body, and my mind hearing the echoes of stories I heard. My dreams have been of children on buses. Fleeing. Coming to the land of the free. Dangerous bus rides. Thirst, hunger. So much fear. My wake and sleep just separated by a veil. I barely awaken to remember my nightmares are someone else’s reality. The contrast is stark.

Today the American flag that pokes out of the flower pot on my front porch, the remnant of Independence Day that acts more as a decoration than a declaration, stares at me as I hold my watering can. Back to life as normal? This must be a question, because it’s certainly not a statement I can live by.

I cannot unsee what I have seen. Not this time.

Thank you to everyone who has shown an interest in my border trip. I’ve received many requests to hear about what I saw and I will do my best to process it here on my blog. It was an incredibly rare opportunity and because of our guides, we had unbelievable access to places and people. I feel a responsibility to share what I saw, heard, learned, thought, felt, wondered, and remembered. I sensed I was going representing so many others who care about what is happening. It will be impossible for me to cover everything in a single post, so in future posts I will highlight some stories I heard and how they embodied information I learned and possible action steps for anyone interested in moving past the learning. This is just the beginning. #familiesbelongtogether #notwithoutmychild


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