The last birthday I celebrated with my dad was spent at Ignite Seattle because I had submitted a speech idea on a whim and been selected to give a five-minute talk about my experiences working with refugees in Greece. It was typical of Big Jim to sacrifice his special day and put me in the spotlight. I was always humbled by the pride he had in me and the belief that he had in my work and ultimately, the only thing I can do with his legacy is put every ounce of love I wish I could give him into the communities I encounter in my profession as a nurse and aid worker.
Every person I encounter and context I enter is fueled by the love he left behind. My dad was an intimidatingly large man with an even bigger capacity to love and care for others. In many ways I did not realize the depth of his impact until after his passing and person after person reached out to me to tell me about the impact he had on their lives as a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, and a reliable, constant presence in their times of need. He quietly went through the world weaving a vast network of love, and that is the most beautiful legacy I can imagine one could leave behind.
I think deep down, Big Jim always knew there would be a time where I would be out in the wide world without him to protect me, so he always invested in all of the work I have done knowing that the communities I cultivated would keep me safe. Indeed, since his passing, they have not only provided me with physical safety as we navigate modern displacement settings, but they have also provided me a space to seek emotional safety when the magnitude of the world is too much and I need a place to let my heart rest. No one can better understand the earth-shattering grief that comes with the sudden loss of your Northern Star than people who have been forced to flee their homes. They always know exactly how to take the weight of my grief off my shoulders for a while by handing me fresh bolani, a plate of maqluba, or a steaming cup of chai, and letting my soul pour from my chest. Even through differences in culture and languages, it seems as though broken hearts can always spot each other and in a strange way, always act as solace.
To honor my dad and to show my sincere thanks for the unlikely group of people who have stepped up to support me, I am launching a fundraiser to honor him in celebration of his birthday and In-Sight Collaborative's fourth birthday.