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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dry Run for Dying

Or, packing up a life.

Somehow a few mornings ago, out of nowhere, I saw the parallel between this time in my life (6 weeks until departure) and my Dad's death 9 years ago.  He knew he was going to die of ALS, and he had a year of warning to both celebrate and bring closure, to assure everyone was cared for, and say goodbye.

Which is where we are now.  We came to Kijabe thinking we would stay for two years, and now it's been 4 1/2. Jack is graduating, we're due for a furlough, our parents would like to see us, it is time to reconnect with supporters, all our kids will be in the US, we have worked towards this point . . . in short it is time to close this chapter.  We will come back to East Africa, Lord willing, in a year, but not to Kijabe.

Why?  When we came to Kijabe there was no paeds department, and now we have four excellent paediatricians (3 Kenyan and 1 American) with a fifth moving into our house after we leave.  Two more missionaries are in the wings thinking they'd like to move here in the next couple of years if a spot opens.  And one of our Kenyan colleagues said she'd had 20 phone calls from Kenyan doctors newly graduating from residency, who would like to work in this environment.  Our neonatal survival numbers are the best in the country.  We are moving forward in patient care and research and teaching.  Everyone I work with is smarter and younger than me, and I've handed over the leadership to one of the best doctors I've ever worked with (and I mean that on a medical, spiritual and personal level).  In short, it is OK to go.

But that does not make it easy.  My Dad walked through that process with dignity and faith and grace.  At this moment, I am acutely aware that it must not have been easy for him, either.

So please pray for us to be like him.  We are trying to tie up loose ends, to advocate, to hand over well, to anticipate, to leave all our work in the best possible condition.  We are thinking about the needs of kids and team mates, and making plans.  We are cleaning up and out (in theory that is, we actually haven't started), paring down, planning to set aside essentials for living somewhere new when we return, thinking about what to take to the States, what to leave for others, what to throw away.  We are feeling the crunch of projects not quite done.  We are making preliminary plans for travel, buying tickets.  We are savoring time with Jack, with kids at school, with friends and team.

The first call schedule without my name on it was circulated this week, for July.  There are dozens of small deaths, the realization that I won't be part of the plans for new programs, that my colleagues will be called, not me.  There is the healthy tension of letting go.  And there are the moments of joy as well, when we get to celebrate.  So I'll end on that note.  Today the Maternity Department called us to a 7:30 am meeting (not unusual, we sometimes have those on Thursdays to work out schedules or discuss issues.  This time, though, the entire department of consultants, nurses, clinical officers, trainees gathered to say farewell.  We felt very loved and appreciated by their kind words.  One nurse had told her supervisor she wanted to go in our suitcase because she knew that we always responded promptly to calls, so she felt secure when she had a night on call with us.  Others appreciated mentoring and teaching and high standards of excellence.  We all laughed as one doctor thanked Scott for being the only other Man U fan in a sea of Arsenal supporters.

We love working with this group, who have become our friends, and that's what makes the goodbye so much like dying.  As believers we know that death is not the end, that reunions will occur, that good awaits, that tears will be dried.  But the parting is still painful.  Truth.

Scott thanking the team.

Charge nurses Rachel and Beatrice present us with a gift.

The gathered department.

The gift:  a reminder that "In every desert of calamity, God has an oasis of comfort".  Good words in this time of sorrow.


Judith said...

Sending good wishes for the tasks you face and many prayers for your comfort. Thank you for your good work in God's service. Judy in HMB

Larisochka said...

Hard to fathom how the time flies...truly. My heart aches with you at the little pangs of death and goodbyes. Praying, as you ask, that you might walk the road well. Lots of love from this side!! -Larissa