I was trying to think how I could sum up the year 2000 in Ghana. I mean how do you put an entire year in one post? I stared at the blank screen and then I remembered an essay I wrote ... I thought about it... and it will do perfectly. I looked through the blog and as far as I know this will be the first time I am posting this essay to this blog-- Simply titled "Tombstones"
I think being in a third world country puts one in a position to face death and sickness on a regular basis, but I don't think it 'prepares' you for it.
Rushing five year old Stephi to the hospital, speeding against time because she needs a blood transfusion. She makes it in time. Her mother is happy. Her father is thrilled. We are all relieved!!
I drive home through the night, sighing, I think, "This is why I am here!" No sooner has the sigh of relief slipped past my lips and the phone rings.
"We rushed Mary to the hospital"
.... I am back on the roller coaster... Mary is such a sweet lady in her 30's. She always has a smile. She is always full of joy. Mary has AIDS.
A short time before the phone call I went up to Aburi mountains with Mary. She was cold and I let her use my jacket. We kept joking with each other. Mary bubbled over with energy; what is she doing being rushed to the hospital? Didn't she only have a small problem with her stomach?
The phone rings again; now the ride swoops down. She is dead. I feel like I'm on one of those rides where the thing loops around and you are upside down.......what do you mean she is dead? I just talked to her!
No time to think. There are coffins to pick out, a dress to sew, something simple but elegant for her to wear in the casket.
Now I take out my jacket and I can't look at it the same way. I look over at Daniel's overstuffed green chair. I dragged it down to the hospital so Samuel could be comfortable the last day he was with us. Every time he tried to lean back he couldn't breathe. His heart would pound like a horse gone wild. He was exhausted. Everyone was exhausted taking turns allowing him to lean on us...that is when I thought of the chair...it didn't go back all the way, so it allowed him to rest while sitting up. Samuel was relieved when he leaned back in the soft chair. We said good-bye to him, he couldn't speak, but his eyes said everything. He smiled and closed his eyes and then he was gone.
The tombstones lining the pathway of my lifetime are not made up of rock and marble....no...they are made up of jackets...chairs...sweaters....shoes.....handbags......little
dolls.....raggedy stuffed animals....memorials to those who have gone on ahead of me....reminders that life here on earth doesn't last forever.......maybe it is a reminder (after all) of what I am doing here in Africa.