All Are Refugees, Going Home
Epiphany, when we remember the Wise Men who knelt before the Son of God to pay him homage, will always be a personal favorite day on our Church calendar.
On one momentous January 5—the eve of Epiphany fifty-nine years ago—my parents, my brother, and I left our Cuban hometown of Pinar del Río and boarded a plane for a hundred-mile trip northeast toward an unknown future in the capital city of Havana. There, our family of four became refugees in a new land. On that day in 1962, like the Wise Men who followed only the star, my parents chose to do the inconceivable: leave the only place we had ever known, with nothing more than our faith and hope in God’s promises. I was seventeen months old, the younger child of María de Jesús and Ignacio Ruiz.
When I think of my toddler self as I look at my granddaughter, who is roughly the same age I was when we walked on that tarmac, I am overwhelmed by the truth that certain life-altering experiences—like becoming a refugee—are etched deep in our souls and shape who we become. Though these experiences may not live in my conscious memories, they changed me forever.
Emotions transcend memory: I am sure I felt my parents’ anxiety, fear, and determination in their tight grip on me (and my brother) as they walked us from one airport official to the next. The cruelty of the officer who ripped a doll from my arms.
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