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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Those who walked in darkness

The darkness lengthens insidiously in Virginia in December, sun low on the horizon and quick to melt into shadows. Today, December 4, was a very dark one three years ago. We had sent our kids and team away as a precaution in the first few days of the ebola epidemic, but the risk became brutally real and the cost excruciatingly high that night when we got the phone call telling us that our friend and colleague Dr. Jonah Kule had died in his isolation tent at Mulago Hospital. We were stunned, spent, sorrowful. Shivering with shock in the tropical darkness, feeling alone and vulnerable in the face of evil. Our neighbor came over to pray with us, our team having dwindled to three: Scott Will, Scott, and me. We stood outside in the dark, late into the night that seemed to last for ever.
Three years later, we're here in America far from ebola and lost friends. We call Melen, Dr. Jonah's widow, who carries on a legacy of wise parenting alone, and creative service to the district. Her Alpha Nursery and Primary School just had their end-of-year graduation party. She protects her fatherless children from the money-seeking relatives who would jeopardize their education and survival. In the darkness of widowhood she has shone, strong and faithful. And this alert pops into our email today, a new article about the epidemic which I've not yet been able to download, the scientific nature of it lending reality to the suffering but sanitizing it too:

Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 Dec;16(12):1969-72.

Proportion of deaths and clinical features in bundibugyo ebola virus infection, Uganda.

Macneil A, Farnon EC, Wamala J, Okware S, Cannon DL, Reed Z, Towner JS, Tappero JW, Lutwama J, Downing R, Nichol ST, Ksiazek TG, Rollin PE

Meanwhile the decorating in Virginia continues, little electric candles now in every window beneath the wreaths. The last time all the decorations came out was another dark December, six years ago. My dad had just been diagnosed with a fatal disease, given a life expectancy of about a year. We flew back to be with my parents while he was still relatively asymptomatic. Since then the decorations have lain dormant in crates in the basement, needing the passage of time and the presence of grandchildren to make it worth reviving them. My mom gives directions, remembering the way my dad connected a particular strand of lights or hung a particular garland, and we try to replicate. She finds a box of letters under the bed that she collected during his last days, and we remember the shadow of that sorrow too. But she is another widow who has weathered the darkness and found that it does not penetrate the light, tears still come, but laughter too.
Two men who have left legacies of sacrificial love and courage, who met death without fear.
Today the darkness of ebola and ALS and death press in our memories, making the promise of that light to come more than just sentimental holiday cheer. It is a flickering lifeline, a glimmering necessity.

1 comment:

Scott J. Will said...

Jennifer and Scott - thank you for posting! It is with sadness that I remember those days, yet optimistic and hopeful, in retrospect seeing the results of those life-changing events and remembering God's faithfulness through out. You are much loved.