We stayed in the house of my mother’s uncle while we were in Afghanistan. The house of Kaka Haji who is the same uncle that has worked with my mum for many years, and runs the Hazrat Ali orphanage.

On an adjoining structure within the yard of the house stays a widow called AwghanGul. She is one of those on the sponsorship program, and she acts as the caretaker of the home in my uncle’s absence, receiving a salary and staying within the same residence.

AwghanGul has a young daughter, perhaps 16, called Farida. They helped around a lot in the house while we were there.

One day I saw that there was another young girl, around 14 who began to stay with them, along with a younger boy. The girl, who one could tell from a single glance, possessed a deep sadness, a grief plastered across her face. She possessed the shy tendency so typical of Afghan girls, yet at the same time evidenced a strong character, abrupt and direct in her speech and expression. My mum asked who she was, and Farida said it was her cousin. Her mother had passed in the recent months, and she had been unable to recover, undergoing a fierce depression. Upon the most recent visit to her house, Farida was speaking to her, and her cousin said that she wished she had gone with her mum, that the value of her existence had all but evaporated. Farida then brought her to her house, in the hope that a change of atmosphere and some work would help.

After a day or so when she had become accustomed to all of us, my mum approached her in the kitchen, and just so typical in her fashion, so warm and all-encompassing with such simplicity asked her “What’s wrong, why are you sad? Your mother is gone, but she would not wish for you to be like this. Here, you have another in front of you, I am also your mother,” she said pointing at her chest.

The girl was crouched down and was looking up, and as she began to move my mum put out her arms and embraced her. She began to cry a deep shuddering sob; the heaving in her breath had within it a strong sense of release. The whole time my mum held her, stroking her head, reassuring her that she would always have someone to help her and after a few minutes she began to calm down.

After that moment there was a clear difference in the way she held herself, that deep grief which permeated across her face, her actions and her speech was lifted, she would always respond with far stronger clarity, her speech was no longer beaten. She ended up staying with Farida for another two weeks, and when the time came for Eid, my mum took her, her little brother and Farida to buy new clothes.