He stood one late July morning in my bedroom, unexpectedly. Mohammed.
I know fragments of Mohammed’s background. He left his mother and siblings behind in Irak when he had to flee, alone. He did the journey here as most of them do. In dangerous and overloaded rubber rafts over the Mediterranean, then by bus and foot through Europe. And like most of them, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
He arrived in a cold and rainy Umeå October 2015. July 2017 he stood in my bedroom, unexpectedly, one morning. The same week that he started working for my home care company Civil Care he had received his temporary residence permit which he had been waiting for for 1 year and 8 months. He was one of the lucky ones. Mohammed, an Arab from Bagdad, 25 years old.
Mohammed’s be or not to be here with me has been shaky all along. Yes, he was allowed to stay in Sweden but not necessarily in Umeå, he could be placed anywhere. Eventually the authorities decided on Umeå after all and in late fall he could move from the asylum accommodation to his own apartment. What a lucky day, he finally had his own home in Sweden! And he cut a Christmas tree in my grove.
“When I was a refugee”, Mohammed said. Past tense.
Mohammed has been such a gift to me. He is caring, attentive, considerate, forethoughtful, warm and loving. In addition he is a very practical young man. He knows how to use every tool in my work shop and has an eye for figuring things out. So not only has he been taking care of me, he has also been taking care of my place, here at the end of the road. Handy man and gardener. He is as meticulous as I am and the result of his efforts always brings an astonished and grateful smile on my face. The path in the snow up to my house has never ever been so beautifully and functionally shoveled and carved.
“I like Umeå”, he said last summer as we got to know each other. “It’s a bit small, but it’s nice”. Umeå has 125 000 inhabitants. Bagdad 12 million.
Mohammed has been picking up the Swedish language by himself and out of interest. The first months I tried to think about how I expressed myself so it wouldn’t be too difficult to understand. He put every new word into his phone for translation and extended his vocabulary every day. This spring I’ve been realizing I am not limiting myself anymore. I talk pretty much as I normally do and Mohammed get’s everything!
Yet, he has to take the steps to learn Swedish properly as it is required by the authorities of course. That’s one of the things which has been up in the air since last fall, when would he start studying and to what extent? One of the things leaving me hanging in terms of stability in my daily life.
I have loved every minute spent with Mohammed. Starting my day with him. Going my mini walks when possible with him. Picking up the groceries. Learning Arabic words and phrases (!). Talking about life. Sitting together in the car, quiet. Following the development of his new life here, so far away from his country and beloved family.
And my home has never been so well cleaned nor my washes so neatly hung.
As Mohammed runs up my stairs in the morning and we great each other in Arabic the sun comes up. He gives me such energy. As well as having a calming effect on me. He makes me feel safe. When we arrive home after treatments in the afternoon I normally feel very cold and fragile. I put sweaters on and hide under my thick fake fur blanket on my couch. But although this winter has been terribly cold, I haven’t. It is as if the presence of Mohammed has kept me warm. I feel like I have been held. He fixes my dinner and says to me firmly: “Maria, lie down and relax”. And then he lights my candles before we say good bye in Arabic.
Mohammed has, as every refugee, been through hell. Yet, he is always positive and optimistic. Through all the waiting and uncertainty in his new country - only since I got to know him - his take on it is at all times: “It will come. And it is all going to be great.”
How did you become who you are, I am asking. Mohammed has this rock solid sympathetic confidence in himself and what he can handle and achieve. Like he is infused with light and strength from the core of his heart and spine. Absolutely grounded in his strong body. I was born this way, he says. I’ve always trusted myself to do anything.
Mohammed did his last day with me on Friday. From now on he will study full time and the goal is to become a physician. He studied medicine already in Bagdad. Now he will start all over again, first conquering his new language. Mohammed will be an amazing doctor.
As Mohammed’s presence here with me has been so up in the air during these 3/4 of a year, I have too. The ability to enjoy every day I was given with him at the same time knowing this day could be the last, has been a mental balancing act worthy a tightrope-dancer.
I am in grieving. Loosing Mohammed is painful. But I am wishing him all the best on his continuing journey and trusting it to be beautiful. I am so grateful for having had the joy sharing that journey with him for a while. And for every western woman I am wishing the experience of being attended to the way Middle Eastern sons take care of their mothers.