Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saying Goodbye

The last day in Lusaka was an emotional one. As we said our goodbyes, I realized how many people had found a place in my heart and how much I would miss having them in my life. In that short time a bond was created that will last forever.
We were invited into Webster's very humble home where his family put on a presentation about AIDS. Webster is the tall one with the red shirt and his wife is in the skirt next to him. The picture is taken in what we would call the living room. The kitchen had a small coal-burning stove in it, and a very small amount of food. That was it. The bedrooms were small with just a few things in them as well. They were so proud of their home. It was then that I realized how important it is for me to be happy with a small, simple home and that what I have here in America is about as fancy as it gets compared to what the majority of the Africans have. Webster is a member of the church and works for Mothers Without Borders. He spends his time teaching the children in different communities about health and self-worth. He has more energy, life and love than most people I know. Webster and his wife Sharon both have AIDS. Saying goodbye to the many people I had met who have AIDS was a very tender experience. Who knows how much longer they will live.
We started our journey at the orphanage and ended it at the cemetery. There is truly no way to express how it felt to drive through miles and miles of this cemetery and to catch glimpses of the dates on the headstones. Over and over and over again I saw headstones with birth dates too close to my own. These were my peers who were being buried. Mothers, fathers, children crowding this enormous cemetery. It is estimated that during the two weeks I was in Africa, over 80,000 children lost a parent to AIDS. Stephen Lewis describes it well in his book Race Against Time. "All of us who live in privileged western societies experience death from time to time, but in much of southern Africa that's all people know. Their lives consist of attending funerals. It's commonplace to say that every family in every country has suffered a loss in the carnage of AIDS. But merely to use the words is to rob them of meaning." I wish my experience had proved otherwise but I don't think I met a single person who had not lost an immediate family member to AIDS. Imagine our society if every one you knew had lost a parent, a sibling, or a child to AIDS. That is the reality of Africa.

I still can't even begin to grasp it. What I do grasp is that this is a tragedy. It is happening in our world right this minute. Who knows how many people died from AIDS or hunger since you first starting reading this post. I can't stop wondering why it is that we are so blessed and pampered here in America. Whatever the reason, I know that where much is given, much is required. It is essential that we do our part, whatever that is.

I believe that God will take care of those who pass on. However, with His help, it is our responsibility to ease the suffering of those who are left. Elder Holland once said, "May God, who has blessed all of us so mercifully and many of us so abundantly, bless us with one thing more. May He bless us to hear the often silent cries of the sorrowing and afflicted, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the poor. Indeed may He bless us to hear the whispering of the Holy Spirit when any neighbor anywhere is suffering and to drop everything and come running."


hedrad said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I say this with lots and lots of tears. These posts are treasures that help to bridge the gap between my two beautiful worlds. Remembering is so important in our quest for a solution. These posts will be cherished by more than just you and I. Just imagine the gratitude our dear family in Africa would have if they had access to the internet and could read these amazing tributes. Thank you again for listening to the Spirit.

brenda said...

I know what you are saying about death. I have been thinking about that this week--how I am 36 and have not lost anyone close to me other than grandparents. How can I have survived this long without death in my life...and how will I handle it when it comes? I can't fathom how it is such a daily reality for many people in the world, as well as our early pioneer ancestors. Even in Baltimore where my parents were on their mission, everyone they met had lost someone to gang violence. In many countries it's war or disease. Seems like death would totally shape them.