My father taught me long ago, just as we were leaving home on a trip, to trace with my index finger on the wall near the door the words: “We are from God and to God we shall return.” The words were a talisman, supposed to guarantee that we would return home. It always struck me as strange, to use words usually reserved to announce someone’s death. But now they make sense, because we have become a people who speak about return. Thousands of displaced Syrians ask, will we return or die somewhere besides our homes?
And so our family reunites across the ocean, to watch our country from afar, like thousands of other families who have crossed Syrian borders as refugees in exile. Like our Iraqi friends did a few years ago and our Lebanese friends did a couple of decades ago. We live like them, anxiously, where the only certainty is uncertainty. And the only link to our home is the invisible trace of the letters that my father’s fingers marked on the stone wall near the door.