July 2, 2011

where YOU lead: no "good" byes

"saying good-bye to the times we've had is the same as saying hello to the times to come." unknown

my final week in africa was definitely not what i expected it to be. after making it through 5 weeks without losing any of our children, i thought that we were certainly home-free and wouldn't suffer any loss. but to lose a child with 2 days left of our journey and to experience an african funeral on our final day in namwianga were 2 events for which i could never prepare.

andrew's funeral was perfect. typically zambian children are not buried in caskets. usually their bodies are placed in bags, and that bag is placed in the grave to be covered by layers of sticks and dirt. but andrew deserved to be buried in a casket, and he was. they placed the casket on a table, and the african people walked around it, chanting and saying their final goodbyes. and we also walked around it, getting to view the sweet face of our little friend one last time.

we then all moved to the graveyard which is several hundred yards behind the haven. the aunties alternated from singing to wailing, and it was unlike any sound i've ever heard. the power of their cries sent shivers down our spines and brought immediate tears to our eyes. but andrew was then buried in the ground, and his grave was covered with the 3 most appropriate items: flowers, his favorite toy, and an extra-large bag of tomato puffs in his honor.

goodbyes are just never easy, whether they are permanent or only temporary. and i thought i had prepared my heart for my goodbyes. i knew i'd be in africa for 6 weeks and then it would be time to come home and return to normal life. i knew we might lose a child and have to say goodbye to him or her forever. and i knew that i might form a great friendship that would have to be temporarily broken and that it might be hard to bear. but i did not realize the extent of the emotions that i would feel.

saying goodbye to andrew was extremely hard, but saying goodbye to my best friend beatrice was just as difficult. as i was packing to leave i removed my favorite skirt (the one with all of the colorful flowers) from my bag to give to her as a gift. when i gave it to her, our eyes met and in the same moment filled with tears. she told me how much she loved me and how much she would miss me, and her final words to me were, "twalumba maningi"..."thank you very much."

walking the final path home from the haven was a challenge. hearing the cries of our babies as we walked out the door not to return again was indescribable. i didn't know that it was possible to love something that wasn't mine at all as if it absolutely were. i held hamilton in my arms for a solid hour with tears rolling down my cheeks. i sang to him. we talked. he played with my hair. i pushed him in the swing. i lifted him in the air. we took a video. we did all of our usual things, but they just weren't enough.

i drank my fill of africa. i soaked up every second. i made the most of every experience. but there are simply no "good" byes. some byes are permanent. some are temporary. some come after a long time. and others after just a short. some byes are quick. and some are never-ending. some seem necessary. others are completely unwanted. but no matter what type of bye it is, no bye is ever good.

but as hard as my goodbye was, i am choosing to view it as the next hello. a hello to the future. to the times to come. to the next adventure. to returning to africa. to more knowledge. to more experience. to being more prepared for the next hello and more prepared for the next goodbye. and thinking of the next hello gives the next bye a little hope of being good.


  1. this post made me cry. love you.

  2. Your words moved me to tears. We are so proud of what you have accomplished. You truly have a heart for service.

    Judy :)