How My Father Looked


I think I have a way of finding out what my father looked like. Yes, finally! Excuse my excitement. My father died when I was very young, and to this day, I have never seen a picture of him. My search for his face goes back to when I lived in a refugee camp in eastern Sudan.
It was around 1977 when we arrived at the camp on camel from Eritrea, then under Ethiopian control and fighting for independence. My father had been murdered, but at 2 years old I had no understanding of the circumstances. Sudan promised a new beginning.
For the next two years, we lived in a hut, and my mother did odd jobs, but it wasn’t enough. She finally found work as a servant in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and left us with our grandparents in the refugee camp. I was about 4. Each day afterward, her image became more vague and abstract, just like my father’s. It felt as if I had never had parents.
My mother couldn’t read or write, but she used to record tapes and send them to us. She told us about her life in Jeddah. I would stay in our hut and play the tapes over and over again. I tried to focus on visualizing her face. That was when I started trying to create portraits of both my parents. I imagined my father’s features like mine, with pronounced nose and eyes, and I reinvented my mother’s warm smile. Drawing their pictures in my head, I believed, brought me closer to them.
Then one day, three years after she left, my mother finally sent us a photo of herself. We hung the framed photo on the wall, the only bit of color against the pale mud. Oh, my beautiful mother! I missed her madly.

to continue reading (another 2 minutes), please go to New York Times here


  1. cristina cabral says:

    Quanto sofrimento, o mundo precisa de muita oraí§í£o.

  2. raj says:

    Gracias Paulo para compartir esta historia conmovedora.

  3. Marie-Christine Grimard says:

    A poignant story…
    Not to know his father is a wound never closed
    Sometimes parents are not the ones we dreamed it and we have to do with that fact, some would have preferred not to know them…
    Sometimes you have to mourn for his father while he is still alive because he is no longer there for you.
    Finally, those who still have their father and love him do not know their happiness. It’s always when we lose someone or something that we understand
    how many important It was.

  4. K S S Pillai says:

    It is better to believe that his father looked like the image he has already created in his mind. Trying to create another one through a sketch based on the description of others will only result in more confusion. His sad story is no different from that of thousands of victims of man-made holocausts.

  5. Atreyu says:

    Joder, no pensé que una vez pasado todo, cogerí­a aprecio a los chicos con lo que trabajé, alguno sentí­a complejo e intentaba rebajarme, otros escuchaban lo que alguno que veí­a amenazado su liderato decí­a sobre mi, pero en realidad cuando estás normal todo el mundo te suele tratar bien. Sin embargo, las serpientes son siempre serpientes, no hay tantas, y se esconden hasta que pueden hacer daño y salir impunes, ya les llegará la hora, me impaciento pero no me cabe la menor duda.

    En cualquier caso, ya han estado bastante en mi vida, me alegro de haber compartido estos dí­as de trabajos con mis amigos. Al final ha sido muy curioso, han radiado una canción de Led Zeppelin, rock and roll, he tenido la sensación de que era para mi, y antes de irme, cuando nos estábamos despidiendo, una canción oriental, llevaba una camiseta de Bruce Lee, y estos dí­as en los tiempos muertos practicaba tai chi, ha sido mágico. Una vez recompuesto mi yo, el mundo se abre, primero piedras, luego flores, o como dirí­an en occidente, los últimos serán los primeros.

    Muy agradable, nos volveremos a ver.

    Hasta pronto.

  6. mita says:

    Mr cohelo, nice and heart taking post. I wish Sulaiamn’s try about searching his father’s image will be successful .The other comments follow the post are also very emotional. Thank you for sharing.

  7. LoveM says:

    Quite a while ago I had a profoundly moving dream
    It started with a rather dramatic and frenetic search
    For some incredibly important research papers written
    by my grandfather who had long since passed away…
    The whole adventure included a chase and a race
    against sinister search parties who were after
    valuable secret formula’s that he had discovered…
    The dream escapade climaxed with recovery of the papers
    in the upper floors of a derelict building without a roof
    where I was trapped and surrounded by the opposition…
    At that crucial moment I realized that I could fly
    so I flew into the air while paging through his papers
    Throwing away all the pages with the valuable formulas
    Looking for the most important page of all…
    The One that showed that I was loved…

    Devoid of story
    My father who’s in heaven
    Does not have a face

    1. Annie says:

      If you found It
      I m sure you knew It
      and if you didn’t,
      it it’s because it’s being written…

      Love and Gratitude

    2. LoveM says:

      Bless you Annie Dear <3
      Yes.. I love that one..
      One's Love.. Its being written..
      So you will know it..

    3. elaine says:

      adoro os livros do paulo coelho mas esta em especial

  8. Mari Ann says:

    I’m now writing. And writing. And writing. And writing. The bubble has burst… M :)

  9. Annie says:

    Happy Birthday to my dearest father today:)!!

    Love and Gratitude

  10. Heart says:

    Welcome back to your blog Paulo! Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story about a young man searching for the image of his own father. Photos are so so important to keep the loved ones alive inside of us. I wish for Sulaiman he will be able as soon as possible to determine this most important person in his life, his father. After all it is a human right to determine paternity and maternity for every person on this earth. It is essential for answering the question; Who am I?

    This makes me think of a story I heard in the beginning of this year, when I went to Sundance Film Festival with Elaine and Kimberly and they told me about a man who is or is not the son of a very famous person, perhaps a love-child of two very famous persons. Contrary to Sulaiman, this man is doing everything in his power to keep it a secret who his parents was. His whole life, he has lived hidden and unknown to the public, growing into some mental insanity probably from not being who he is, and at the same time who he is has to be expressed, so he has told bits and pieces of his story to someone in his local community. Who are his parents? It could be determined by DNA test, but he refuses to do this. He owns several belongings, that belonged to famous people, and he has met relatives of his possible parents, who in fact have threatened him, by not telling his story to the public. Motive? Gigantic sums of money, and wealth. They would rather he stay hidden and unknown, to protect inheritance, as far as even threatening this man’s life if he told the world.

    My deepest sympathies to both these men, one who is searching for facts, but can’t find them, and the other avoiding facts, to keep living as someone he’s not. Over the years I have met a handful of individuals who were adopted, or who somehow were separated from their parents. I’ve met several single mothers, who make decisions on letting their child get to know the real biological father. I bring them material; It is a human right to establish paternity, to know who your biological parents were. I tell them how important it may be at least to let a child have a photo of their missing parents, to be allowed to develop a true identity of who they are. I have witnessed some individuals in adult years, who suddenly found their lost biological parent by signing up to web sites for missing people, and how it helped them grow as human beings. It is a right for everyone, for you and me, to be who we are; Our name, Our parents, Where we are from, What we like to do. I told Elaine and Kimberly, I’d love to meet the man they told me about, and tell him, It’s your right to be who you are. Don’t let anything, money, threats, insecurity, depression, discouraging half-sisters or whatever stop you from proudly stating, My name is, my parents are and I’d like to do this with my life..

  11. Pandora says:

    Today, just before lunch I phoned a very dear friend of mine. After waffling on about this and that she said she had dreamt of me and my mother. I was apparently swathed in black velvet with big choker style silver moon necklace around my neck. My Mother was trying to reassure me that I had not lost my necklace, and that it was in fact around my neck secure. A message that I understood.

    My mother who has been dead for over nine years also came to me in a dream three days ago, so strongly did I feel her presence that I shouted to her “Mama” and it woke me up.

    Six months before I found out she had cancer, my father dead for decades came to me in a dream (highly unusual as I was so small when he died), he said he was worried about my mother and wanted me to look after her. She had shown no symptoms at the time of my dream.

    I think reality and death are illusions and as Blake said “”If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

  12. ashy says:

    me da mucha verguenza lo que escribi anteriormente .

    1. Carlos says:


      No sientas vergüenza por haber expresado lo que sientes. Leí­ tu comentario y quiero decirte que no es una tonterí­a lo que te está pasando. Pero te puedo decir que aun estas a tiempo de escapar de esa situación que te esta haciendo tanto daño. Tienes que tomar todas tus fuerzas y alejarte de esa persona. Independientemente de la deuda de la casa y demás. Tienes que hacerlo por tus hijos que te necesitan pero sobretodo por ti. No te culpes por lo que esta pasando ni dejes que te manipule de esa manera. Debes salir de allí­ antes de que sea demasiado tarde. Sé que aun estas a tiempo. Por la manera en que escribes puedo ver que eres una persona con sentimientos y sensibilidad. También debes buscar ayuda, alguien con quien hablar y preferiblemente ayuda profesional. Espero que puedas liberarte lo más pronto posible.

    2. ashy says:

      gracias ,es dificil ,encontrar ayuda,los profesionales ,solo te dicen lo yo ya se ,soy una persona que da cuenta de las cosas ,solo que no tengo apoyo ,ni siquiera familiar ,se que la unica que se puede ayudar soy yo ,el problema es que no me tengo fe ,ni estima .
      qracias por los consejos.

  13. Ashy says:

    Voy a ser un poco egoista y contar muy a pesar mio ,pero no tengo a nadie a quien contarle ,ni a quien pueda ayudarme ,se trata de mi vida ,hace muchos años que estoy al lado de una persona violenta ,su violencia es psicologica lo que ha provocado en mi ,la perdida de mi ser ,he tenido que ser como el queria ,aislarme ,dejar de ser ,no he podido alejarme ,porque me unen años, hijos y la deuda mas grande es economica ,si,si ,la felicidad si tiene precio ,para poder alejarme deberia pagarle la casa que compramos con esfuerzo ,esa seria la unica manera de obtener mi libertad psiquica ,algo que me resulta imposible y por mas que quiera no puedo hacer nada ,si no aceptar ,esa violencia que tanto daño nos hace ,para el es algo tan natural ,que llega a decirme que estoy equivocada y me hace sentir culpable ,por haber tenido que casarnos tan jovenes ,culpable yo ? porque en esta sociedad machista la culpable de todo es la mujer.
    lo lamentable es que esa persona que tanto daño hace dice quererme y hacerme ceer que es mi unica opcion ,lo que realmente he creido todos estos años ,que el era el mejor a pesar de todo .
    he intentado volver a ser yo ,pero sin ayuda no se puede ,durante años he creido que cuando uno desea algo ,lo logra ,pero no se me ha dado asi ,por eso esta desesperacion ,ya no puedo mas,esta situacion,tan lamentable ,tal vez parezca una tonteria ,pero son años de maltrato psicologico y la dependencia que desgraciadamente tengo ,por no poder siquiera haber encontrado un trabajo mejor con lo que pueda mantener a mis hijos.discupas a todos por haber expresado lo que me pasa,lo siento mucho.gracias

  14. Arto Hutto says:

    Touching story!
    It struck a chord for me personally as I do not have a vivid memory of my father as he left my life for good when I was 6, and never came back as he died in my early teens. Still, luckily I have pictures to remember how he looked but that can never replace the loss.

    with sun,

    Arto Hutto

  15. Tarek says:

    Amazing! I always believed/still believe that those who are out of our sight end up taking grip on us more than those who are near! Probably because then, our imagination, that is unlimited, take the upper hand in shaping them in our minds and souls…

  16. shaf says:

    Sir, i see life in ur writings. I would like to say, we have many things in our mind, and sometimes that’s all we have and we cherish those ideas rather than memories.

  17. Benny says:

    Beautiful story! We are keen to know where do we come from?

  18. There are stories behind the things around us but, as this posting shows, there are sometimes even stronger stories behind the things that are missing. Amazing.

  19. Kim Kubba says:

    respected sir,
    I’m very fond of watever u write or post on ur blogs.I have always admired ur ability to express ur experiences n emotions in the simplest possible way.Today, accidently I happened to go thru this post of urs and cud relate to this desperation of sketching one’s parents’ personality/appearance in words to make them immortal.I lost my father 3 months back,i have his pictures with me to look at and remember him, but still i keep resketching his portrait in my mind no matter wherever i’m in an effort to keep him deliberately wid me.This post of urs has encouraged me to give words to that portarait i keep constructing in my mind.
    thankuu wise man.

  20. marie-christine says:

    Photography – precious alchemy done through the human eye –

  21. Apurva says:

    Mr. Coelho! if there was one bit o sunshine that leaved without touching ur smile today!! i will pray it to come back to you and learn from you.. Thank you…Gracias….é bonito

  22. John Cox says:

    I just needed to say thank you for putting this on your blog this.

  23. I believe every parents love their children.

  24. Thank you for posting this!

  25. Dear Paulo, thank you for sharing the story. This is one of those times where, I feel, yet have no words.

    Love to All, Jane xo

  26. jolly varghese says:

    hello ,i too missed love in my life .my father died very young ,before he could give me some ideas about life . and a mother who never cared for me ,anda sister who simply kicked me out . i started to dream of love ,angels ,faires,visions,remote places ,well i live in that world . my blog .[lost in the dream ]

  27. chieko says:

    i definitely believe that she is going to find a photograph of her father, not an imaginary one.
    i once asked mf if i could find all the answers to my questions. and he told me ‘yes, if they are something important for you.’ i believe so too.
    father figure is such an important memory for her so definitely she is going to find it one day.
    i hope her all the best.

    1. Liina.L says:

      chieko – I believe so too.

      I do not want to sound cheezy, but I will tell You a little contemplation of my life. Or a little part of “my story”.
      When I lost my grandfather I was devistated. I was a young girl, who had never been able to say in words to her grandfather, that ‘I love You’. For me, it was important. Sure, in the deeds we do and our actions we commit, the love is also shown. But for me, it was devistating that I was not even able to say to him in words, and in person.

      So, after he died, I fell in a dark pit of despair. For years, I stayed in it, even though I started to, little by little, to show my love by the actions. And I felt his presence very strongly, at times. My grandfather is my teacher of life, my spiritual guide, even though he is not here, physically.

      Some years later, I got to read Paulos books. As I read, I understood that I was on the right ‘path’. I was starting to become open to life, led by love. It also occured to me, that there was a resemblance between them. Both in their views/beliefs of life, but also visual image (even though the first years reading Paulos books, I didn’t even know what he looked like, because at that time they did not print the picture of the author on the books, here.). So, in a way, I lost my grandfathers visual image – not in my mind, but he, being in a physical body, here, close to me. Nevertheless he remained as a spiritual guide. Yet, by stumbling ‘accidentally’ upon Paulos books, I “recieved/gained Paulo”, as an visual image, and a second spiritual guide. (Even though in this case I know that he excsists physically in this world, and I have seen him in picture/video, although I have never even met him eye to eye. Only his holograms. Lol. And some look-a-likes of other people in this blog.)

      Sometimes a simple knowledge and gaining a possibility as such can be as healing as an answer to a question. Because we seek answers, either conciously or not.

      But I found consolation in this happening.
      And I knew I could go on in my life, after recieving the answer that I needed to recieve.

      (We all have different signs and answers to our ponderings.)

      Be well, Chieko.

      (Paulo, I’m sorry if this offends You, or if You think that I may be making this up, or if it may be annoying for You to hear such things, but I had to share this. And especially, because this is how I felt/feel and how my brain and heart explained it to me. I am a stranger, who is trying to explain the connection how Your dream has helped mine – Your writing. And even if I understand that it may not mean a thing to You,(and even if it is so) it still means a great deal to me. And I know that there are thousands, millions, who have had some connection. I’m not the only one. And after saying this – this connection – through Your work – was what I needed. It is not essential for me (anymore) to see You in person. Although if it would happen, it would be nice. Truth shall set us free! Thanks.)

      The whole point of my story was – we get our answers. Not always in the form that we wished them to appear as, but there will be an answer. But to get to that answer, we have to look for it, with open eyes and hearts.

      Love to all of You, wonderful people,

    2. chieko says:

      dear Liina,

      thank you for sharing your story. i love it. i like all kinds of stories but i especially like personal stories because they touch me so much.
      you have such a wonderful grandfather, who has something common regarding life wisdom. it really touches me when thinking about a little girl wishing to say just i love you. it is so sweet and moving. beautiful soul.
      i liked your comment below too. i feel the same way.
      i like those who are walking the path because i am one of them too:)
      thanks again for your story.
      love + blessings

    3. chieko says:

      Dear Liina,

      well, i have been thinking about your comment for a while…the resemblance between your grandpa and Paulo…
      i was reading Brida (have you read?) yesterday and stopped at somepoint and thought about your comment.
      ‘…you were part of her. other people might well have the same memory as you.’ (this scene comes after some sort of magic: maybe dream therapy or hypnotherapy. )
      and if it is true (i kind of believe it is true), part of your grandpa and part of Paulo could be the same. so i really think what you are feeling is true. and for me i sometimes see part of Paulo in mb. i feel like he is teaching me the same thing written in Paulo’s book in a different way even though he has not yet read one.
      so we really are everywhere? so if we are everywhere, at some point, we have to look for the origin to get inspired, right? i would like to know what it really looked like. i mean, we are divided into many individuals, right? and we are a bit diluted, right? so i am curious to know what was actually in there. i want to know true form of love and sex too. what is the original meaning of love? what about sex? i would like to know about sex at least because it is kind of important for me. i also would like to know limitation too though it is not really necessary for me to know. oh, reading Brida, i remember i also want to know how to awaken the gifts. because according to Wicca, without it we can only know minor mysteries…
      …sorry it is kind of long and confusing for you…i am not trying to bombard you with questions…sorry, i am just curious…
      anyway, thanks for your comment. i really like it.
      love + blessings
      ps. have you seen your grandpa in your dream? i actually had a dream, after i prayed for her love and protection, in which my grandma gave me a deep french kiss! it was so deep that i almost suffocated! haha

  28. marie-christine says:
    watch eric and his archery’s arsenal, striking his chords for us to hear, look towards the end at the interraction between the words are needed …just intuition at its best; watch how well synch they all are when playing the music only.It is pure ecstasy.
    Follow the signs.

  29. Asote says:

    This article reminded me of how I tried to find out how Jesus Christ looked like.

    Since my bedroom is my heaven, my dreams always help me to find miracles & the divine beauty of life. So, once walking through my dreams, I “discovered” the face of God.

    Jesus appeared to Mary Faustina Kowalska (a Polish nun) as the King of Divine Mercy. Every time I look at the Divine Mercy image painted by Adolf Hyla, I can happily say: YES! Here He is – the Man I’ve seen for more times. Always calm and peaceful. Never boring, but often joyful. A Master among Masters.

    The Mercy of God —> Day of Atonement – the holiest day of Jewish year (Yom Kippur).

    Oct 2 also is the International Day of Non-Violence.

    By the way, have you noticed that Minnie Mouse has on a red POLKA dotted dress? You may guess, why. :)

  30. THELMA says:

    The JURY. The First Rubinstein Competition.
    Thelma xxx

  31. THELMA says:

    We always carry our loved ones in our heart and mind! We visualize them and see them smiling to us..
    When I was a child the first thing that I bought after saving some money was a Grundig Tape Recorder. Then an expensive Praktika Photo Camera! The recorder for recording my piano and the voices of my loved ones.. I was the only student who had a … photo camera at 11 years old! The only one taking photos at our parades, feasts.. Then the photos from my life as a student in Vienna. The first coloured photos. The albums of my children in every phase.. I have always been ‘secretly’ in love with my piano Prof. Dieter Weber, in Vienna. He died in 1976 and I did not have any photo of him, but I could ‘see’ him always sitting near me while I was playing the piano. Two years ago, when I bought my lap-top and was connected to the Internet I tried to find a photo of him. I wanted to .. refresh my memory and ‘see’ him with my eyes now that I am old. I have just found one a precious photo, for me, to keep his memory and him, alive, for as long as I live.
    Thelma xxx

    1. Marta Adriana says:

      The quote made me remember one story from the book ” Be like a flowing river”, it was about an skeleton found in pyjamas after twenty years of his passing away. How hard is to imagine that there can be noone to remember us for such a long period of time.
      I loved the story about your piano teacher. It made me think I won’t have any photo of my soulmate when I want to refresh my memory.

    2. THELMA says:

      Hoja and the End of the World

      A group of philosophers travelled far and wide to find, and
      contemplated for many years, the end of the world but could not state
      a time for its coming. Finally they turned to Nasreddin Hoja and
      asked him:

      – Do you know when the end of the world will be?
      – Of course, said he, when I die, that will be the end of the world.
      – When you die? Are you sure?
      – It will be for me, said he.

      This story of Nasrudin Hoja was told to me by my father when I was a small child. I liked all his stories for the ‘dry’, ‘cut’ humour, full of wisdom and optimism.
      Thelma xxx

    3. Marta Adriana says:

      Lovely story. Your father must be a very wise man.

  32. breda says:

    An amazing story of love of one families strength and courage and horrific pain and loss.Hearing his mothers voice on tape made Solaimans’ sadness disappear and the power of their love and bond and their imagination kept their relationship real.I am adopted and would like to see a photo of my natural father whom I never met and he is dead now. I did meet my birth mother as a child and when I 33 years of age I met her again after 14 yrs -when I walked into the room she was in ,she exclaimed ‘You are the image of your father’ she seemed really shaken by how I was the image of him.My natural mother and I had a truclent relationship (she was a stranger to me whom I did’t like,I was a daughter to her who she loved and she tended to blame me for her sad life and laid guilt firmly at my feet)She had a distorted love for me and in hand writen letters from her she said I should have beeen aborted. She raged when I asked to see photo of my father,and said you don’t want me around and you want to see him.He was nicknamed ‘The Greek'(we’re Irish) but he was so dark haired as I am.
    We did eventually meet his brother and he acknowledged me and thought I looked like the Greek!!
    and in particular my son Kealan looked liked the Greek also.The wife of this brother sneaked a picture of my father to me-it was tiny black and white photo -I couldn’t make out his features,but treasured the photo all the same.A year or two later I tried to make contact with my natural father but he refused to talk to me and I torn up the tiny photo.It it not a story of love and bonding with my natural parents!!! love Breda I plan to read Salaimans life story

    1. elaine says:


      If you really think about it, you do have a loving father who is there for you, and all you have to do is pray to him. :-)

      Love peace and warm light,


    2. breda says:

      Thank You Elaine for your kind thoughts and words,

    3. Marta Adriana says:

      I fully understand your story because I remember my mother used to make us feel guilty about something only my father was to blame. I look like my father and for a long time I’d have prefered that it not be so. I also had a difficult relationship with my father. We idn’t get along well, maybe because we were so similar. What I want to share with you is that despite that I understood there was no point in blaming my parents or feeling myself guilty over anything. Too much waste of energy. I learnt to accept people the way they are and to forgive them not because it did good to them , but mainly because it did good to me. Once you forgive, all those negative feelings dissapear and your soul gets light, free from resentment.
      Lots of love.
      “With the first light of sun
      Bless you
      When the long day is done
      Bless you
      In your smiles and your tears
      Bless you
      Through each day of your years
      Bless you.”

    4. breda says:

      Dear Martha,
      Thank you for your kind words and lovely prayer ,


  34. Catherine E.A. says:

    Sometimes a momento is all that we have
    as a record of OUR truth

    when all else has changed
    and we feel lost within that

    then a photo is the light
    reflecting back at us
    smiling with hope and promise.

  35. Evi Kyriakou says:

    Reading again the article I remembered a part of
    “Pericles’ Funeral Oration”
    (a famous speech that was given by the Athenian leader Pericles after the first battles of the Peloponnesian war).

    It is a classic statement of the value of democracy…

    Refering to the sons of the dead he says…
    “Turning to the sons or brothers of the dead, I see an arduous struggle before you. When a man is gone, all are wont to praise him, and should your merit be ever so transcendent, you will still find it difficult not merely to overtake, but even to approach their renown. The living have envy to contend with, while those who are no longer in our path are honoured with a goodwill into which rivalry does not enter.”

    And refering to the perents…
    “…And sorrow is felt at the want of those blessings, not which a man never knew, but which were a part of his life before they were taken from him.”

    I would like to be able to post you all this masterpiece of Pericles because includes great ideas!!! If someone is interesting can search it and read it in google (“Pericles’ Funeral Oration”.)

  36. Olta Ana says:

    This story is so touching, but the worst thing is knowing that such things still remain a reality to some people. That their life is that way.
    And that’s because human treats human like insects or toys, without considering the lifes and the victims left behind their crimes.

    1. Marta Adriana says:

      You’re so right that it hurts.

  37. Alexandra says:

    Just as happens in my country, with slide differences. People go to work abroad, for years, and leave their kids alone, with relatives. The kids suffer so much, that many of them commit suicide, is already an emergency. When we will live in a world where happiness is all around?

    1. Olta Ana says:

      All around? In this life?
      Unfortunately I don’t think it might be possible Alexandra. There it will always something wrong, as long as we all learn to love at least.


    2. Daniel says:

      21 December, 2012? As good a time as any.

    3. Mariëlle says:

      it’s a bit “spacy”, but who knows

  38. Daniel says:

    We are not our past, but I think it does define us to a certain degree. I’ve lost people I love. Woken up and they are gone. So now I weep for the memory of them, and for Sulaiman and his brother and sister and his mother, and all who have known this kind of loss.

    A fine way to honour his father’s memory I think.

    1. Marta Adriana says:

      I completely agree. The past made you the person you are, you shouldn’t live in it, but be able to look back at it joyfully and without bitterness. No matter how hard it was. I think people should thank God specially for hardships because it is them which teach how to fight.

  39. Den Rod says:


    Holy Trinity!

  40. Marta Adriana says:

    This reminds me of my father being sought by masked guerrila who wanted the rifle he kept in the house. We saw them coming carrying guns and closed the doors, but they got in the house through the back door. Fortunately, they had pity on us and seeing our father was not there, left the house heading towards the other street and killed a man who was supposed to be an insider of the dictatorial guards. I have the feeling had my father been there he would have been killed. We thanked God, the National Guard didn’t realize they were in our house. It was the time of terror, torture and dissapearances.

  41. elaine says:


    Humbles one.

    Grateful we,
    having had a nurturing father in our lives,
    should be.

    Caress him or his picture.

    Caress family every moment.


  42. Miriam says:

    How many stories like this one could be cause wars? It’s a very sad story and unfortunately is not unique. I hope some day Sulaiman finds something that brings peace to her heart.

  43. Liina says:

    From a song ‘Where You Are’, a part of a takeout ‘A BREATH AWAY’S NOT FAR, FROM WHERE YOU ARE.’


  44. Hope says:

    God I miss my parents after reading this. Want to hold the writers hands.
    This is life, good or bad times, happy or sad days, the goal is one.

    1. Olta Ana says:

      This is to us dear Hope. To never forget how lucky we are to have them. To love them and enjoy our time with them as long as we can because they will not be with us during all our life.


    2. Hope says:

      Yes dear Olta, if someone have, shuold be thankful like be thankful for anything else in life! In my case, I did not have parents from age of 12 I think. Anyway long time ago :) And I am thankful for losts and founds in my life, always :)

    3. Olta Ana says:

      Dear Hope I’m sorry to know that, but happy to know that you have parents now.
      I feel in every comment that you do or reply that In your soul you are and believe in your name that I can see there Hope. It is your name, right ?


  45. Liina says:

    This sentence popped in my head: Who doesn’t remember the past, will have no future.

    1. Petra Jonsson says:

      I think both is true forgetting and remembering the past, but for different situations: There is no point in trying to live in the past. It is gone. The present moment is important.

      But sometimes life is teaching us important lessons, knowledge we might need in order to continue on our path. If we miss out on such a lesson than our past will haunt us. In that case it is important to remember, understand and learn first. And than use the acquired knowledge to move forward.


    2. Olta Ana says:

      Dear Liina,
      I would agree better in this one, ‘the past is there to help the future’.

      We don’t need to hold on it but it is needed to look after the future and make it better. As we can’t fix the past we can write a new better story…:)

      But maybe there is something else that you meant with that Liina ?

    3. Liina.L says:

      Great thought, Olta Ana, about past being there to help the future. I agree with it totally – past is there to help us understand many things: how to mature, how not to go on, how to go on… whatever.
      Petra described it well, too. Not to LIVE in past, but to acknowledge it. That does not equal in living in past, though. We live as we wish to live, but we all remember our past. Does that mean we all live in past? ;)

      Forgetting past, or accepting past and moving on, are two different things. I did not suggest living in the past, but remembering/accpeting it. :)


    4. Olta Ana says:

      I thought that too Liina that’s why I asked.


  46. Liina says:

    A nice story, if You can name a sad story about a life full of rough starts, questions, mistreatment and challenges nice. But there was a goal, to pursue, before a person can set on to a new life – to find the picture, the visual image of a lost father. It worked for me, well written, nice to read. There was an interesting poing, all through the story it was mainly described by the view of this child, person. But in one part of the text it was described through his lost fathers eyes, which he did not remember. For some reason, that fact popped out for me… even though I guess in the story it was rather irrelevant?!

    But is it fictional or a part of this persons life story?

    The Zahir of Sulaiman Addonia (or of the fictional character?) – the picture of two childrens father and their mothers husband. The piece of a puzzle.

    Do we always need the real image?
    The image from the heart, to me, did not sound bad, even if he did not know what the mother looked like, for real.
    I guess when things are existential, and when our existence depends on it, we need proof, we need image to let us conclude matters, to move on. We need a piece of our past, the one we were held off from, taken away from.

    Yet all that’s alive changes. Images change.
    I guess our minds make them frozen in some way. When we have lost someone, we will remember them by a certain image, wether visual or descriptive by nature/views/ideas/beliefs/personality. Past.

    Be well.

  47. Catherine E.A. says:

    Oh golly
    the rest of the man’s story is sadder.
    What a dilemma for the father of the boy to have made..
    yet one instinctive.

    but what a great idea to resketch that face of his father.. i am sure it will be possible.

    Last week, my mother unpacked all the photo albums from storage [after moving back from USA].

    I LOVE these albums.
    in fact, i have made it very very clear to her that
    they are the most important items of hers.

    That is because of my parents divorce..
    and of the trauma we suffered before that divorce.

    To me..
    those photographs are the only images i have of THAT time when my father and mother were married…
    when WE were a family UNIT.
    I was so young …
    and so photos remain important memories and reminders of who i am.. who we were.. where i come from..
    how life can be… how we made our life..
    how we loved.

    I would be lost without those images…

    they speak and reach out to me.

    I spent an afternoon just looking through these albums..
    of our lives in Saudi…happy times..
    of my brother’s life before i was born… when they were living.. in Ethiopia.

    i always thought we would return to put the puzzle together…after our trauma..

    but it didn’t happen..
    and so, now… i have these momentos..
    to remind me
    of the old faces of my parents,
    my brother..
    even MY old face
    before the rain fell down ;o/

  48. Catherine E.A. says:

    Hi Paulo.
    I’m really interested by why you posted this article.
    It speaks to me on many levels.
    I was born in 77 3 months old.. moved to Saudi Arabia with my mum and brother…to live there for over 2 years
    we joined my father who worked as a geologist in Saudi.

    My father, even today still lives abroad
    at long periods at a time.
    Right now he is in Sudan.
    but often he is in Ethiopia.
    Othertimes, it has been Egypt, Afghanistan, Jordan…

    It has always been this way.

    When growing up [after age 6] i barely saw my father when he was living in the Middle East.
    i have these memories
    of brief [erratic] visits…
    joyful moments..
    in between
    long distances
    of him being


    I wished it otherwise..
    but my wish
    never came true.

    Even today
    i wish he
    were home
    in Scotland
    safe and sound
    where i can see him, live
    near him.

    Only this week..
    i have been thinking
    quite a lot
    about how much these circumstances
    have affected my life
    and who i am

    how i see, know, live
    and love.

    but it is with “the heart that one sees rightly”
    Even if I can’t see him daily or smile with him
    face to face
    I have come to realise that
    i can HEAR him…
    though there are miles and miles between us.
    I can FEEl him…
    even though there is this distance filled by land and seas.

    So.. in a way, I can SEE him..

    Thankyou for sharing the article.

    Everyday, i live in a world
    i feel the odd one out
    .. because of a father who is far away..

    i sometimes question..
    how can i relate?
    how do i exist when he is so far away?

    but, as your other news article
    .. on UN men for women’s rights

    Because he loves me, he is never THAT far away ;o)xxx

    1. breda says:

      Thanks for telling us about your joys and heartache of having a long distance relationship with your Dear Father : )
      (PS I Love Scotland and have consider moving to work and live there!!)

  49. Mariëlle says:

    Absolutely heartbreaking… such horror people go through.. and still find ways to keep strength and love alive


  50. Mon says:

    A very moving story.

  51. A wise person once said to me “Never look back , always look forward.” I always remember these words when thoughts of the past come to “haunt’ me.