When 59-year-old licensed minister of religion Winston Mahabir sees his wife again, he will let his tears do the talking.
Separated unlawfully for three years, the longest they have been apart in their 30 years of marriage, he said it is with his tears he will embrace the mother of his five children.
“The word of God says tears is a language, that God alone understands and I feel she will have to understand the language of tears when I embrace her. I may not be able to say anything but just cry,” Mahabir said.
Mahabir is the husband of 52-year-old Lynda Mahabir, the Trinidadian national who on May 6 won a case against the UK Home Office which enabled her to get the permission she needed for her husband and children to join her in the UK without paying the immigration fee of £23,000.
Mrs Mahabir was part of the Windrush generation of Caribbean nationals who went to London in 1969 under its National Act of 1948, in which West Indians became Britain’s first post-war immigrants between the periods of 1948 to 1971, arriving in that country as British nationals. She was taken to that country by her parents at just two-years-old
She was illegally brought back to Trinidad and Tobago in 1977 by her father, which left her estranged from her mother and siblings until the Windrush scandal in 2018, when she found out she had qualified for British citizenship.
The Rousillac couple got married on September 24, 1990.
In 2018, on a call from the UK government to redeem her citizenship, she left on a one-way ticket, thinking it would only take three months before her husband and children could join her. However, her husband said those three months turned into three long emotional years.
“We weren’t aware of all the stipulations because of how easy it was for her, we thought a government may not cause a family to be separated. If you understand that they would just move her away from here and she remains there and indefinitely now, we to remain separated. That was unthinkable,” he lamented.
The separation, Mahabir said, was painful.
“It was very trying for us because we were never separated since we were married. The only time that we would have been separated for was probably three days to five days and that was when I went on missions where the church was concerned,” he explained.
An emotional Mahabir said they have been forced to maintain their marriage with virtual hugs and lengthy phone conversations.
“We will spend hours talking. It may be strange to you, but 12 hours we would spend continuously talking on the phone and on two or three occasions, 16 hours we would spend talking on the phone. That how we…uh, I saying that and ah feeling emotional right now,” he said through sniffles.
He added, “There were times when I lie in that bed that we were sleeping in together, and a feeling of, like my wife was dead came upon me and that brought fear upon me.”
In these moments, the Pentecostal minister would turn to his God in prayer and the feeling would quickly subside. On other occasions when the feeling of emptiness emerged, he found strength in counselling others through their rough chapters.
“I would be in the house of the Lord just ministering the word…just dealing with people and sometimes when I immersed myself in the problems of others, I really don’t see or get time to worry or much time to worry about my condition.”
As for the emotional and mental toll the ordeal took on the couple’s children, ages 29 to 11, Mahabir said each found their own coping mechanism.
“You know people cope differently with trauma and when I look at my children, like the last one, his name is Jorn, and he puts himself down into books and he just studies because he is preparing for SEA right now and that’s how he ended up coping.”
He said the girls, who were very close to their mother, made good use of their devices to stay in constant communication. He noted, it was only the power of prayer that kept his family together.
Mahabir even advised those experiencing separation due to the closure of borders brought about by the pandemic to remain patient, as all things, even when the most difficult, will work out for the greater good.
“The Lord will not give us more than we could bear and sometimes we feel that what we’re going through, we are at our wit’s end and we can’t cope anymore, but that is not so,” he said.
“The Lord will not give you more than you can bear and there’s a saying that the longest rope has an end. Sometimes it is we who give up prematurely. If you would hold on the Lord is going to bring the result in due time. And when you wait and that victory comes, it is going to be such a sweet taste in your mouth.”