A pilgrimage to Mecca had tragic consequences for a family of Moroccan migrants in the Netherlands: Three members died while seven others were hospitalized.
Rabat – An unbelievable tragedy struck the family of Hassan Abdelli, a second-generation Moroccan migrant living in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Within nine days, he lost his mother, father, and uncle to COVID-19, with seven other family members being hospitalized.
“How quickly this happened, it was one big drama that I still do not understand,” he shared with a reporter for RTL News.
“Nobody thought that this was the last moment that my father and mother would see each other.”
Hassan’s mother, father, uncle, and aunt went on a pilgrimage to Mecca at the end of February. Despite the great experience they were having, they had to head out of the country because there was a risk that the Saudi government would shut down air traffic as a preventive measure against COVID-19.
Hassan’s family members, all of them older than 65 and deemed to be in a high-risk group, returned to the Netherlands on March 15.
The following day, they organized a big family dinner to celebrate their return. Numerous members of the large family were there, and Hassan recalled that they “had a nice dinner (…) and laughed a lot, everyone was happy.”
The unexpected nightmare crept upon the family the day after the dinner. Hassan’s mother started feeling weak with symptoms not corresponding to those commonly associated with COVID-19.
Initially, she lost her appetite and thirst, and her symptoms started getting worse after a few days. Hassan and his brother decided to take her to the hospital. Their father saw them off from the balcony.
“Nobody thought that this was the last moment that my father and mother would see each other,” Hassan said.
His mother tested positive for the novel virus. A day after her admittance to the hospital, she was moved to intensive care following a doctor’s decision that the family could not comprehend.
“She would be in good hands, the doctors assured us,” Hassan said.
“Act normal, dude”
Just two days after Hassan’s mother left for the hospital, his father came down with a fever and decided to go to the hospital as well, following a doctor’s advice.
Just before he left, Hassan’s father gave his sons an emotional talk, calling on the siblings to always stay together and to avoid anyone who would try to scam them by pretending their father owed any debts.
Hassan cut his speech short, exclaiming, “Act normal, dude!”
“I looked at him and thought: If someone is healthy, it is my father,” he recalled.
Although the parents were in the same hospital, they could not see each other as they were staying on different floors.
On March 30, two weeks after he returned from Mecca, Hassan’s father died of COVID-19 in the hospital. Hassan was at his bedside the entire day, but he had left to get his father sandwiches when he received the call he never wanted to receive.
“I did not believe it, but it was really true,” Hassan said. “He was buried in Almere two days later.”
His father’s death was just a continuation of horror in real life. His uncle, who traveled to Mecca with his parents, was in intensive care and seven other family members were fighting for survival in two hospitals.
Hassan’s uncle died three days after his father. On April 9, the day of his uncle’s funeral, Hassan and his brother received another disheartening call. They rushed to the hospital to learn that their “mother would not make it, there was no prospect anymore.”
The doctor said they had an hour left with her. They stayed with their mother, both in protective clothing, holding her hands, and thanking her for the life she gave them.
“The only bright spot I have left now is the fact that my parents and my uncle were buried in the Netherlands,” he said.
“That way I can go there every day at least. They would think it was fantastic that they had come to lie here,” he continued.
“They loved this country, it was their second home.”
Hassan’s other family members were gradually discharged from the hospital.