Tag Archives: Grief

When it Rains…

“When it rains it pours,” the saying goes. This definitely has been true for us these last several weeks. It started on such a high (yet soggy) note. It rained buckets for days and days and then some more days. Our street flooded, the neighbor’s house flooded, a pair of flip flops I left outside by the door floated away to—I‘m still not sure where, wet laundry hung in the bathroom waiting for the sun to peak out. The outdoor mumu (pig and sweet potatoes roasted in a pit) we had planned to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the widows’ fellowship somehow got underway. Simon pulled our car right up to the front door so we could load all the remaining supplies needed for the celebration into the car without getting utterly drenched.

Trevor was still enjoying his morning nap, so I scooped him up, threw a blanket over his head and off we went. I thought back to the first Widows Encouraging Widows Fellowship (WEWF). Trevor was not quite born yet. Now he runs around with the other kids like he owns the place. A lot has changed over the last two years; and as I look back, I am so humbled and thankful that our little family gets to work with such an amazing group of ladies.

The downpour dampened our efforts for an early start. We were an hour late to the venue (still ok by PNG time standards). The ladies had been invited to come help with the baking (if interested), but only Rose managed to brave the rain and come early. So we started: first bread, then muffins, and finally we finished off with some cookies. As we baked we laughed, reminisced and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Rose was one of the first widows we visited when we first came to PNG. After her husband’s death she told us that she had stopped coming to church. She said she felt forgotten when the initial support from people at church slowly faded. Grief—it is just hard and sometimes such a lonely process.

I remember that first visit. I barely spoke any Tok Pisin. We brought a bag of rice and Simon and our good friend from church, Elizabeth, prayed for Rose and her children. Rose’s little guy was just a toddler then. It wasn’t a long visit, but as we baked together Rose brought up again how much that initial visit had meant to her. It ended up being a turning point for her, she said. She started going back to church again realizing that people were there to walk this difficult road with her. She is a faithful attendee of WEWF; and as we celebrated the 2nd Anniversary I couldn’t help but think, “this is why we are here.” It matters. Each lady, each one for their kids matters and getting to walk along side them on their journeys is a privilege.

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Baked Goods for the 2nd Anniversary of the Widows Encouraging Widows Fellowship

On the drive home from the celebration, the car started making banging noises—again. Sunday, coming home from church the noises grew even worse. So, back to the mechanic it went. He fixed it only for the car to die again on Wednesday. Now a week and a half later, two new tires, a new fuel pump and a few other things fixed we believe that we’re mobile again. Well, at least for the moment. The reality is that it is an old car and slowly (or not so slowly) dying. We are saving up for a new one, but it is hard to save when money has to continually go towards repairs.

This week brought other hard news. One of the widows we work with was sentenced to three years in jail due to a land issue that took place while her husband was still alive. Her children are now all young adults, but one of her kids has special needs.

Then we received news that one of the ladies who has been a support/encouragement person for WEWF passed away suddenly after a short illness. She and her husband have a young daughter.

Some weeks are just hard. It is hard to know what to say, hard to know how to move forward, hard to know how to be a support and encouragement. But, we do stand together not knowing the future, but knowing and trusting in a God who does. On the hard days I go back to that moment with Rose baking bread in the kitchen. We are here for a reason to stand together, walk together in the midst of broken cars, flooded streets, prison sentences and the painful reality of grief. It is not easy, but it is easier when you face it together.

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Rose with her freshly baked bread

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Fragile

I wasn’t able to go to the funeral. I’ll be in Kijabe soon but not soon enough. I thought about not going to work after finding out that my aunt had passed away, but one of the best things about working as a nanny is that holding babies can be therapeutic.

I’m tired of writing about grief. It hurts. I’m tired of stressing about what’s going to happen next. My dad left me a voice message last week telling me to call home and my first thought was, “great what happened now?”

Life is fragile so very, very fragile.

My first clear memory of Aunt Martha was after my twin sister died suddenly. She sent my cousin and me American Girl paper dolls and cookbooks. Mine was Molly and Amanda got Kirsten. For an eight year old, it was such an appropriate gift. A thoughtful way of saying, “I know things are tough for you right now, but I care.” That’s the kind of person Aunt Martha was.

She ran a guest house on the coast of Mombassa. My friend and I had planned to spend a long weekend at her house in June. We’d been messaging back and forth confirming dates and talking through travel options.

It still hasn’t completely hit me that Aunt Martha won’t been there when I get to Kenya next month. I know she is in a better place, but selfishly I still want her here. She touched so many live, brought so much joy, and was an inspiration to me and to so many other people.

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Lasting Memories

Love birds

Love birds

 

Last Thursday I headed to Florida, but it wasn’t a happy spring break trip to Florida it was for my grandma’s funeral. I was put in charge of collecting pictures for the photo board display at the service and also creating a background slide show to run during the visitation.

Grandma and her camera

Grandma and her camera

I love pictures especially old black and whites and also those adorable cute kid pictures, so I spent several hours pouring over my grandma’s photo collection. I know I inherited some of my love for pictures from my Grandma Pontier. She had books and books of neatly organized and labeled albums lined up on shelves in her bedroom. Every grandchild has a book stuffed with baby pictures and almost every out of state trip earned a book as well. My pictures are nowhere near as organized as Grandma’s, but I’ve massed quite a collection myself.

Due to a limited amount of time before the funeral, I didn’t finished the slideshow to my satisfaction, so on the 13 hour car ride home I decided to finish it. When I think of my grandma, her love for pictures is one thing that I am very thankful for. The memories she captured on film I’m sure will continue to touch generations for years to come.

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The Absence of your Presence

A tree planted in Kenya in memory of Alice Mbugua

A tree planted in Kenya in memory of Alice Mbugua

Today marked a year. A year without someone I truly cared about, a year wishing she was still here while knowing that it is impossible to go back. I remember last year right before Valentine’s Day. I was driving down the road and started thinking about the single women I knew whose lives I admired. Alice’s name was the first name to pop into my head. She always seemed willing to try new things. She brought a sense of joy and an honest love for humanity with her where ever she went. I don’t ever remember hearing her complain about life. She just experiencing life adding a special charm and polish where ever she went. As I was driving that week of Valentine’s day, I remember thinking that I should email Alice just to let her know how much I appreciated her and how she lived each day. I never sent that email. The following Sunday a sudden cerebral hemorrhage took her life.

Today I did my best to cook Kenyan food something we used to enjoy doing together. But, as I attempted sukuma wikie and chapattis, I was reminded just how much I still don’t know. I used to help cut up the ingredients, roll out dough, and just help where needed. Alice was the mastermind who made it all come together. This time it was just me.

Food has a way of being a comfortable familiar even when it doesn’t come out exactly like you hoped it would. But, at the end of the day my attempt was more about honoring a memory then it was about the actual food, and in that sense the endeavor was successful. Alice, I still miss you. Even though you are in a place of perfect happiness the world still feels the absence of your beautiful presence.

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If It Was Easy They’d Let Girls Do It

My left calf muscle is burning, and I rolled out of bed very slowly this morning. But, I completed my first 5K yesterday finishing with a time of 38:31:31 placing 276 out of 463. With only three weeks to get ready for the race, I’m happy with my time although I do want to run a 5K in under 30 minutes.

Interestingly enough, Hoops for Life is the second toughest 5K in state of Missouri due to all the hills that make up the course. I didn’t know this little piece of trivia when I sent in my registration form. Silly me thought the slogan “A Tough Race for a Tough Cause” referred to distance not incline, but I survived!

It seems crazy to go from not running at all to attempting a 5K in just three weeks. I tried to find a training schedule, but all the ones I found were for 9 or 5 weeks. I ended up starting out with the Couch to 5K program only running six days a week instead of three and then the last week running under the Jonny method.

The Jonny method consisted of my younger brother literally running circles around me while he was wearing a weight vest and complaining about having to slowdown his pace. He would then tell me to run when I wanted to walk and say just a little bit more when my legs were screaming. But as my dad says (when he wants to see me get mad) “If it was easy, they’d let girls do it.”

The day of the race was gorgeous. Over 600 walkers and runners, most wearing neon orange shirts, participated to raise money for pediatric brain tumor research in honor of Sahara “Hoops” Aldridge. Sahara’s parents started this 5K after they lost their 13 year old daughter to a malignant brain tumor. While there was so much adrenaline and excitement surrounding the race, I couldn’t help but think how Sahara’s parents would feel after the last runner went home. Yes, thousands of dollars were being raised to help other people’s children, but Sahara was gone. She would have turned 18 this year.

Having the courage to bring something good out of a tragedy is one of the bravest things someone going through grief can do. It is easy to give in to the pain. It’s hard to move forward. I’m sure the families connected to the movie theater shooting in Colorado can attest to this.

Grieving is a lifelong process. There is a lot of attention at the beginning when the pain seems the most intense, but it never fully goes away. You learn to cope, to celebrate, to grow but you can’t ever go back to how it was. It’s a tough race, a daily race with very real pain, but that pain can sometimes turn to hope like it did yesterday when over 600 people’s lives were touched by a girl who most had never met.

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When Words Aren’t Enough

I didn’t cry until I walked into the emergency room. The entire drive to Carbondale I kept thinking this had to be a mistake. But, as I got closer to the hospital, I knew I just did not want to face the truth. Alice was too young and too full of potential be gone. I wasn’t ready to give her up, but not wanting something to be true does not change what happened.

I had just been thinking about her on Sunday morning before we got the call that she had passed away. She was about to graduate in May with her doctorate degree in addiction and substance abuse counseling. I was thinking about how we would celebrate all those long hours and hard work. My mom had just talked to her on Thursday. Alice was going to come down for the weekend when my sister came home in March for spring break. Everything was so normal the way it should be. Just like in January when she came down and we spent the weekend making samosas and drinking chai.

Alice texted her neighbor and very good friend on Sunday morning asking her to pick up some bread and flu medicine while she was out saying she felt a little dizzy and thought she might be coming down with something. When her friend came to drop off the medicine, Alice was unresponsive. The ambulance came. They did everything they could, but she was already gone. An autopsy reveled the cause of death to be due to a cerebral hemorrhage.

It’s hard to say good bye to someone you’ve known since you were eleven. Alice was not only a good friend, she became a part of our family spending many holidays with us and countless memorable weekends. When we lived in Chicago, I remember driving into the city with my dad to pick Alice up for a dental appointment. On the way to take her to the dentist, I lost a tooth; and it was bleeding so bad we had to swing into Burger King to grab some napkins.

We met Alice soon after she came from Kenya to study in America and when she transferred to Southern Illinois University to work on a second Masters degree and then a PhD, the relationship continued to grow closer every year. Alice was my friend and an adopted aunt, but she was also so much more than that.

When I think of Alice it is so hard to describer her. She had so many good qualities. I don’t know a single person who didn’t like her. She was so sweet and easy going and made friends very easily. What breaks my heart is the thought of all her unfilled dreams of working with women in Kenya. She loved her country, but while she was here she brought a lot of joy to this country, and I’m grateful for that.

Her death is a shock I am still trying very hard to cope with. There aren’t enough words so say how much she meant not only to me but to all the other people whose lives she touched. I know she is in a better place, and it seems that she passed on peacefully but she left such a hole.

I’m going to miss watching random movies together on Sunday afternoons. I’m going to miss making chapatis together and talking about everything from her doctorate thesis to the quirks of American culture. Alice was always willing to try something new, and she looked eternally 32 although she would have turned 41 the Saturday before her funeral.

Words seem so flat right now especially compared to the life that Alice always brought with her. She was amazing. She had so many dreams. Ask anyone who knew her, and they will tell you the same thing. Alice was a jewel.

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