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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

a death and a life

Kabasunguzi Grace died.  For over three years she had held onto a tenuous life.  She came to us emaciated beyond belief one summer, febrile, dying, carried by her bewildered and desperate mom from the far reaches of the district, and when I realized she was Julia's age, I committed to fighting whatever was killing her.  We didn't exactly ever find out:  we treated her for TB, and for cerebral schistosomiasis, and we sent her to every possible referral help we could manage in Uganda (Mulago, CURE in Mbale, OURS in Mbarara).  She saw specialists, even had a CT scan of her head, which may make her one of the only people from Bundibugyo to have ever done so.  Kaba became paralyzed and blind from her disease, but with our milk and her mother's dedication her cheeks filled out and her spirits rose.  She had an infectious laugh, and a never-complaining cheerfulness.  She particularly drew out the compassion of a couple of different summers of interns:  the group who read books to her and befriended her when she was first in the hospital, and a second group that raised funds to buy her a wheel chair so she could be wheeled into a school room and listen even though she could not see.  I used to go visit her on bike rides with Bethany or Kim, because SHE ministered to US.  I have to confess that in recent months I had not seen her.  It seems she and her mom had migrated back over the border into Congo.

But over the last few days I've been getting repeated calls from an unknown number.  If I answered, the person would begin to talk, but not understand me in Lubwisi or English, and would not talk back.  I sent text messages asking who it was, but no reply.  I figured it was a wrong number.  Finally this morning on rounds the voice called again.  And I realized it was some patients's mother, so I gave the phone to Olupah, who finally communicated and got the story that Kaba had died.  I am touched that her mom worked so hard (even when I could not understand her!) to tell me, but I think it probably is because no one else invested in this girl and made her feel her own care was worthwhile and important, so she wanted to share the news with someone who would also grieve.  I wish I could find her now.

Kaba only lived to be about 14.  And the last few years most people would have been appalled at the life she did live, confined to bed, in a dark room of a mud hut.  But I see beneath the failing body and bleak surroundings there was a precious little girl who had joy, affection for and from her mom, and an undemanding acceptance of life.  I pray that she is running, dancing, and looking at unbelievable splendors through resurrection eyes right now.

4 comments:

Debbie said...

Oh I just don't know what to say. I just know that I will hug my youngest extra hard when she gets home from college tomorrow and be praying for Kaba's mom.

Cindy Nore said...

Hi Jennifer. Once again you encourage me to fix my eyes on what is not seen and to remember that Heaven is a place where all wrongs are made right, where those who have gone before us are "running, dancing, and looking at unbelievable splendors through resurrection eyes right now." I needed your post this morning more than I can say, and I continue to feel such gratitude for the many ways in which you and all those who labor there inspire and encourage me. God bless, and I hope you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving. With love, Cindy

Daniel said...

Jesus alone can comfort in these times. Love,
Dan & Gini

Kim said...

This news saddens my heart, but I will never forget Kaba's joyful spirit. The Lord used her to touch the lives of many.