This holiday season, our #TheBestGiftIEverReceived 🎁 project tells the stories behind beautiful gifts received by people that, today, call the UK their home. Youssef tells the story of how two necklaces he was gifted, symbolise love and its enduring ability to inspire and uplift, even in the face of the most formidable of challenges.
I feel like my life has been one giant tapestry, with threads of uncertainty and resilience woven into every step. The simplest and most extraordinary gifts have illuminated my life. They weren’t wrapped in the glittering trappings of tradition or adorned with a bow. They were simple gifts from the people dearest to me, invaluable sources of hope that would constantly remind me I was loved in the hardest of times. The best gift I ever received is love. Love was given to me in the form of two necklaces.
When I decided to study in Scotland and pursue a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering, I was excited and filled with anticipation. Yet, life, unpredictable in its course, led me down a different path.
In the autumn of 2018, I was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, and the only treatment required for my condition was only available in the very place I had come to study—the United Kingdom. Faced with this unforeseen bombshell, I decided to apply for a visa to remain in the UK.
Amidst the challenges and uncertainties I faced, love revealed itself in unexpected ways, casting a warm glow on the darkest corners of my path. Love manifested most profoundly in two simple necklaces: the first necklace was a gift from my dear family, which became a steadfast comfort to me during what would become a long journey of disappointment and hopelessness. The second was a gift from my mother that served a different purpose, one that would leave a lasting impact.
The first necklace was not just a piece of jewellery but a powerful symbol, a beacon of hope to me on my darkest of days. I always wore it, fastened tightly around my neck. A symbol of my faith and my everlasting hope. It was my silent whisper of strength that kept pushing me forward. It became my reminder that, even in the face of uncertainty, I was not alone.
I remember the fear I felt when I saw the chain of the necklace had become entangled beyond repair. Somehow it almost seemed to foreshadow the detainment I would face not long later when I was moved to Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre. If only I had known how dark and fear-filled those days would be. But even in the unthinkable, dehumanising times that would follow, hope was still not lost.
Little did I anticipate that Christmas time would become a stage for miracles. One such extraordinary moment manifested when I was granted Section 4 for temporary accommodation—an unexpected present that meant I had somewhere warm and safe to stay just before Christmas.
During winter of 2023, I received yet another transformative gift. I was granted my Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) after a successful Leave-to-Remain application. The BRP signified not only the legal acknowledgement of my presence but also the freedom to work and move freely within the country that I love.
And as if by magic, during the same morning I received news about my granted application, I saw something beautiful had happened. As I washed my face, I discovered the once tangled necklace had untangled itself. The chain, once entangled, now lay seamlessly as if some unseen hand had mended it. This unexpected repair served as an answer to my prayers, a glimmer of hope that whispered of impending possibilities. It was November 8th, a day that I felt a renewed sense of optimism in my life.
The second necklace I received was a gift from my mother, a matriarch whose love knew no bounds. She had given it to me to give to my soulmate, Sarah. It carried not only the weight of maternal love but also the hopes and blessings for our futures together. Our love transcends the boundaries of circumstance. I found myself sharing not only the challenges of my health with her but also making new, happy memories with her. We have both uplifted each other, through seemingly impossible times and I am confident we will continue to do so.
My life has been adorned with unexpected gifts and miraculous moments, especially during the magical time of December. Christmas is not only a season for joy and festivities but also a time when miracles, both big and small, unfold before us, weaving a tapestry of hope and resilience in our lives.
The echoes of Christmas prayers are symbols of triumph. They are stories of love’s enduring ability to inspire and uplift, even in the face of the most formidable of challenges.