Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the Little Prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well…”

~ excerpts from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's
The Little Prince, 1943

* * *

This morning on my way to yoga, ever the multi-tasker, I knocked out a few phone calls, caught up on texts, and checked in with my newborn niece all the way out in Wisconsin, who sang me a few tunes across the wires as she prepared for her first doctor's appointment. A few blocks from the studio, I turned to the news to catch up on the latest goings-on in the world, and quickly found myself teary, throat-choked, shaken, at the latest update on this tragic story of the Dutch plane crash in the Libyan desert that ended in the devastating loss of all but one of the 104 passengers.

IT was enough in and of itself, this story of the one lone survivor, young Ruben, all of 9, who was discovered "still strapped in his seat and breathing in an area of desert sand strewn with the plane's shredded wreckage," both legs broken. This one solitary creature, breathing still, somehow, there in the desert, returning from a dream safari vacation with his parents and brother, all lost to the crash, his chest still rising and falling without knowledge of the vast about-face his life had just taken. I'd seen quick pictures of him yesterday sleeping in his hospital bed, tousled curls framing his face, and they'd reminded me immediately of the tousled curls of Saint-Exupery's famous literary Little Prince - a children's book that, eerily, emerged out of the author's own experience with a plane crash in the Libyan desert of the 1930s.

And I read how they gave Ruben a few days' respite in the hospital before the authorities told him about his family, to protect him from the shock of waking up an orphan, and how now there they are in the Netherlands, sheltering him, an aunt and an uncle stepping in to take over where the others have gone, where the community's standing at a nervous gentle distance in an effort to "make sure he can catch his breath peacefully in the arms of relatives," a grasping attempt to find "a kind of balance with each other, so they can start sketching a future" - a future that looks nothing like the future they'd planned.
"Where are the people?" resumed the little prince at last. "It's a little lonely in the desert."
"It is lonely when you're among people, too," said the snake.
There at yoga, sitting on my mat, when Rusty encouraged us to dedicate our practice to someone who might be in need of a little love or compassion, I thought immediately of this sweet orphaned real-life prince; I thought of this young boy there, alone, broken - literally broken, shattered, lying there in a hospital bed with no one, nothing, the grotesquely-graced solo survivor of a human disaster on an inhumane scale, and I breathed that sorrow in and out and I heard my brother-from-another-mother Pradeep next to me breathing and I thought of how this child will have to, without choice, create a life where there was none, find a family where there was nothing before, build an entirely new existence whereas two days ago he was just a kid with his big bro coming home from a sweet-ass safari. And now he is the Little Prince, the desert mystery still breathing after a tragedy of epic proportions, this sleeping creature who has miraculously, tragically, painfully lived to open his eyes to the numbing experience of human loss on the most grand and awful scale imaginable.

DO you think his long-term sanity's possible? Will such great trauma at such an early age be too damaging to transcend? Or will this move him to be the remarkable man his family would have intended for him to be?
“A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” ~ Saint-Exupery
I came home after class and sat at my Mac and looked, just looked, at this photo of this innocent sleeping creature who knows not what enormous battles he faces, and I read all the stories about the Dutch people coming together to make a life and a love for him where there is suddenly none, and I thought about how we create our own tribes, and how lucky I am to have such a rich and varied tribe here in this urban life of my own making, and how "family" is such an arbitrary, relative term, subject to change, subject to winds and crashes and deserts and changing heartbeats, and I thought about the little girl breathing her first breaths in Wisconsin this week, and how I'd wrap her up and draw her close to me like a tiny bird should I ever need to step in and do so, and realized it's all so small, all of it, really, the chatter and the mingling and the entertainment news and the weather reports, because here it is Saturday and across the world a child needs a family and people will be there, I hope, I pray, and then I cry again anew, but in joy this time, because look at how people have come together to love this child, to be there, from Japan and Libya and Seattle and South Africa, hundreds of strangers commenting here on what was intended to be the family's travel blog but now has ended up an inadvertent elegy, anonymous voices in all their many varied languages, most of which I can't even read, but all of which say the same essential things:
Anoniem zei

You are in the prayers of many.

GBU... be strong boy.

God has great plans for you, young man. May your heart be healed of this tragedy so you can do his will. Prayers for you and your family in heaven.

Trust that there is a reason that you have survived. It is not an accident.
I will be praying for you...
Denise, from California

Heel veel sterkte toegewenst aan Ruben en natuurlijk alle nabestaanden van de familie Assouw.

Grow to be the man your family knew you could be. Bring honour to them with a life you can be proud of. Stay strong.

Oramos por ti.

Yes, you have lost your loved ones but you will always have a family.....The World! Don't you ever think you are alone little angel!
Tonya USA North Carolina

god bless you. be strong little boy

Be Strong Little Brother. You survive with a purpose !!!
Ke Akua Hoomaikai Oe ....(God bless in Hawaiian)

Familie van Ruben, zorg goed voor dit prachtige jochie. VAYA CON DIOS.

Out of a tragedy comes a miracle. I join with the thoughts and prayers of many; for Ruben and those who will comfort him.

Be strong little one. Your parents and brother would want this tragedy to strengthen you, not define you. Go on and live the life they would wish for you.
All our hearts break for you.
Casey from Nashville, TN
And on, and on, and on...

How can we not be convinced of the power of the broken heart to overwhelm the sometimes-sorrow of being alive, when these beautiful voices and languages and spirits come together speaking words of family - brother, "little man," "sweet boy." The tenderness slays me. Might all those loving intentions continue to pour in from across the world, so that this Little Prince might know that this is not the end, it is merely the beginning of a "something" potentially creative and beautiful and new.
“Sorrow is one of the vibrations that prove the fact of living.”

“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.”

“For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow."

~ Saint-Exupery
Boy who survived Libya crash returns home (MSNBC)
Van Assouw family travel blog


Mariah said…
Oh you don't even know how my heart is breaking reading this, as I watch my little babe sleep and wallow in my post-pregnancy loss of hormones. The tears won't stop. Thanks for this Rach, your words are heart-wrenching, adequately so for this little man's story.
Anonymous said…
Rachel, once again I'm moved to tears from your beautiful writtings. Your words make my heart break , open, expand, and overflow with emotion, gratitude, and wonder.
You're a gift to all who havethe pleasure of knowing u.
So much love, a

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