I have a history of being careless with my physical possessions.

The latest evidence: spilling cinnamon horchata directly onto my laptop keyboard.

Bah! 

Do I even need to tell you how a laptop is ESSENTIAL to my existence as a digital nomad and that I am LOST without it?

*sigh*

There is no point lamenting what is. I’ll assess the situation and see what can be done, one step at a time.

And so it is that I find my way to the computer repair shop of a man named Nabil.

His small office suite contains stacks of computers sitting atop hand-written work orders, their components taped to the papers. This is an old-school business, without fancy contracts or customer databases.

While Nabil offers opens up my laptop to ascertain the damage, I notice the photos of his wife and four daughters, all beautiful with long dark hair and big brown eyes. His daughter’s drawings and Honor Roll certificates are taped to the walls.

“You have a beautiful family,” I tell him. “Four daughters!”

“Well,” he says, looking down. “I lost my youngest a few years ago. Something went wrong and she left us.”

I take a breath.

What do you say when someone loses a child?

What do you say in the presence of such pain?

“I’m so sorry,” I say finally. “I can’t imagine what that must be like.”

“It’s very hard,” he says. “She was my baby, and now she’s gone.”

The grief in the room is a thick fog. I open my heart, allowing myself to be the space and inviting him to be in it with me.

Nabil busies himself with taping my screws to a sheet of paper with my name and details on it while I wait in silence.

A young girl walks in. “Baba, I want to watch Netflix.”

A debate ensues and Nabil agrees to let his daughter use his phone in the office, though it must stay on to receive customer calls.

“She wanted to come into work with me,” he says. “This is the one I worry about the most.” 

His daughter settles in to play games in the corner and he speaks in a low voice.

“She’s only 11 months older than her sister. They did everything together. I took all three of the girls to see her in the hospital when she was gone, all dressed in white with her eyes closed.”

“At peace,” I say and he nods.

“This one says to me, ‘Baba, we need to go to the hospital and pick her up before someone takes her.’ She doesn’t understand.” His eyes are wet. “Every week I take them to the cemetery. We celebrate her birthday. I don’t want them to forget.”

“It’s so sad and also beautiful,” I say, touching my heart. “She is always with you.”

It’s a cheesy thing to say, but I can feel the truth of this. His love and sorrow spill over, weaving his daughter’s presence into the space around us.

Nabil lends me a computer to use until my new keyboard comes in and the laptop is repaired. I thank him and leave.

On the drive home, I sit with the feelings stirred by Nabil’s story.

Our lives are so short, so precious. Loss is inevitable.

At the same time, it feels true that nothing can ever really be lost.

I think of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

The beautiful sadness of life embraces me, and I awaken to the gift of being alive, with all it holds.

For this awareness, I would destroy a hundred laptops.

Yours in creative play,

Stephanie

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