Waving goodbye and letting go

A story told by Marleen Dobbels Wommelgem, Belgium

Marleen Dobbels is the director of the Local service centre De Wimilingen at the Sint-Jozef, Emmaüs assisted living centre in Wommelgem, Belgium. The service centre also hosts the Rap Op Stap agency, that helps people in poverty to plan a holiday, which she runs together with a group of enthusiastic volunteers. Marleen is Storyweaver in the Iedereen Verdient Vakantie Network. She loves a good conversation. She’s always looking for activities that connect people.

Hot, hot, hot. That’s what you could call the summer of 2018. Marleen Dobbels, always working hard, took herself on a bit of a holiday this time. As she nestled into a little camping chair in front of her tent, in her beloved tiny campsite of Nages, in the South of France, her senses were heightened. The breathtaking view of the majestic mountain range, the smell of the fresh air and the typically Mediterranean chorus of crickets... 

She could have kept watching, smelling and listening forever. The calmness that radiated from that place was everything she needed at that moment in time. With her eyes set on a magnificent lake, she was able to let go of everything for a while: worries about her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, her hectic job at the service centre, and juggling the needs of her two children. It was going to be a magical day, but she didn’t realise it yet at that moment.

No obligations, almost perfect

This is a true holiday for Marleen. Being somewhere so far away from her daily life in Belgium. Being able to take some time away from the daily grind and getting some rest. And above all: not having any obligations. Marleen enjoyed the company of her husband Michel and their 5 year old son Kobe, and thought everything was perfect. Almost everything…

That very day, her 18-year-old daughter Ossinou was travelling to Africa for a whole month with her Togolese father Victor, who wanted to show her his native land and introduce her to his family. It was an epic adventure, not just because of the trip. The relationship between Ossinou and her dad had been far from smooth. The bond between father and daughter had been under heavy strain.

When Ossinou declared she wanted to get to know her father’s family and see his country with him, it was a real milestone. Marleen did have a few objections and arguments as to why she shouldn’t go, but she knew she just had to let her daughter have this experience. Being immersed in that other culture and the other half of her DNA would undoubtedly be quite a learning experience for Ossinou. Still… something was gnawing. The trip was a big challenge. Marleen feared that her daughter would be put to the test, at her arrival in Togo, among people she didn’t yet know.

If only I had…

As she sat talking with her husband Michel in front of their tent, Marleen said she felt guilty. That morning, she would have liked very much to accompany them to Brussels or Paris, instead of being on a holiday. That’s when Michel had a brilliant idea! Why not try to follow them by using Flight Tracker? So they could find out the exact whereabouts of their flight online, at any time.

Marleen jumped to her feet enthusiastically and ran to get the flight details. Michel is a professional mapmaker, which means he knows a thing or two about geographic matters. She saw him type in the flight information and was utterly surprised when he exclaimed: ‘Amazing! If I’m not mistaken, there’s a big chance we’ll see Ossinou’s flight pass by us right over there!’ while pointing to the far side of the lake. ‘And we can be a 100% sure it’s their flight, because right now the airspace is pretty much empty otherwise!’

Now incredibly excited, Marleen walked over to Kobe, who was playing with the neighbour’s child. His parents came over to have a look as well.

There she is!

A little dot suddenly appeared above the mountain and Marleen yelled ‘Look! There they are!’ Kobe’s tiny hand pointed upwards, right to the spot where his big sister was flying by. Six pairs of eyes saw the plane appear over the mountain and slowly cross the lake. Marleen was waving her hands in the air like a lunatic, a huge smile on her face and her eyes wet with emotion.

What a magical moment! The relief of being able to wave her daughter goodbye. To be able to let go all her worries. A lioness was roaring inside of her: ‘Hey pilot! Make sure you get her there safely!’ Marleen felt happy she had found the courage to give Ossinou this opportunity. And she was thankful for this brilliant gift of being able to wave her goodbye so unexpectedly. She was on her way to Africa, but also on her way to adulthood. Give your children roots… and wings.

And there she goes…

Once again, Marleen realised what a fine woman Ossinou had become; actively involved in the youth movement, a student about to move into her own accommodation,  she really was a great daughter. Within her heart, she was giving her daughter a message: ‘Live, enjoy, but don’t turn a blind eye to what is going wrong in the world. I’m so happy to see you spread your wings.’

Ossinou means hope.
The girl sure lives up to her name.

Authored by Karin Vannuffelen Mol