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When the Angels call us home...
March 1, 2018
I have decided to start writing my blog again, as you will gather, but I am also somehow in a period of healing as I write this, I guess physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. However, I sit here and feel no need to write about current events, for all there are plenty to write about, instead I feel drawn to past events, well actually one event in particular is all I want to write about in fact. I am a big believer in the concept of owning our stories, and by that I mean by taking real and full ownership of stories and events in our lives, we can then if needed overcome the hurdles of healing, forgiveness and acceptance we must. Of course if the story is a pleasant one then it is a much less serious business! We own those with ease, but those we don’t quite own, those are the ones that sit under our conscious mind, and heavy on our hearts, sometimes for a lifetime, when in truth they should have been owned all along, or at least as soon as we could feel ready to own the story, ready to accept, ready to move on perhaps. As I write this I am not sure it will even reach public eyes, for the healing in writing a story that grieves us is not to have the support of people, to the contrary it is to open up within ourselves the acceptance for those events, perhaps the forgiveness, be it of self or others, and to finally say this is what happened, I cant change it for all I wish I could, this is the story of that particular chapter, or day of my life. If I do share this however, I do out of a sense of love, and respect, and I guess in a hope to honour a young life that played his role in making me the man I am today, just as all the children have in our care of course. You see we don’t share stories that trouble us to find pity from others, we must share them to heal, to say this is part of who I am, proud of it or not, this happened to me, I made these choices, and this was the outcome. This is the attitude I hope to pass to our boys at our home for street involved children in fact, that they can own their story, their mistakes, that they should not hide them, they should admit them, talk about them, share them… so they can realise we as humans all do it, we all live days we wish we did not have too. Difference is very few of us discuss them, very few of us make an attempt to accept them, or in the term I keep using… to own them, make them part of us, and not buried as some painful confused period, night or event. So this is a time I have yet to own, as still it rises in me a great deal, so I hope in writing this, even if I am the only one to read it, I manage to find some healing, clarity and acceptance for a night I don’t wish to accept, but as I lived it, I must.
I played outside the kitchen in the Children’s Village, by played I literally mean played! I was with my 3 boys, Akilli, Domi and Faraji. We laughed and joked, and they ultimately kept me company. Fritzi had gone to Germany for 2 weeks, her father missing her had bought her a flight, which left me a little glum by myself! As we joked and laughed, some of the single mothers who have special needs children that live in Featherstale joined us. It was a fun evening all in all, we made a little video or two, shared some tales and jokes, we simply had fun. How quick fun can change though, how heavy a light mood can become in life, how dark a room can get when you blow out a candle. “Johni, please can you come one of the children is not well…” Pamela a single mum who speaks good English came to the door of the main childrens home… Its not unusual to be called like this. With so many special needs children in our care, some are ill some days, some are not… it’s a constant up and down journey, we just pray the good days out weigh the bad. At first I presumed a fever, or perhaps a seizure, the most common things I am called for. I am not medically trained of course, but back then I was the only driver, so it was me who made a call to go to hospital or not. As I walked in the room I saw one of the careworkers we call Mama Daudi cradling Emmanuel, he looked so weak, so weak. I knelt down next to them. “Emmanuel, Emmanuel” I called… he barely responded. I shone my phone torch in his eyes, again he barely reacted. I checked his breathing, it was so faint I knew he was in trouble… “We are going to hospital now!” I cried… I ran to my house shouting at the Masai to open the gates for the car to leave in a hurry… I grabbed the key to the 4wd. It’s the fastest care we have, and can take on the speed bumps without slowing down. Standing by the car when I got out were all the women, single mothers, staff, everyone… We hopped in the 4wd, I turned the key… nothing. It did not even try to start. It had never not started, never! “NO, WHY NOW!” I shouted… I jumped out, the security popped the bonnet, but I ran to the house to get the other key for the people carrier, a care donated just a few months before, and nearly new when imported. Everyone gathered at the people carrier… I turned the key… Nothing. “What is going one here!” I shouted … “God!!! What the Fuck!” I exclaimed… I heard the mamas gasp as they saw a second car never started…”Shetani” I heard… meaning Satan is stopping John! I checked Emmanuel, he was still the same… Finally I looked to our old banger. The little automatic Micra I had from the start. I never drive it, so had no idea where the key was! The only one who drove it was Ali, and he wasn’t there at night. “Where is the key!” I looked inside, hopeful to find it. We stopped keeping keys in the cars after one of the boys had a little meltdown one time and stole a car… but I hoped all the same. The key was there in the door! I hopped in, “please God” turned the key and the car spluttered into life. I hurtled out the gate, I could see the lost time had cost Emmanuel, he looked dreadful at this point. That little micra is a beat up old thing, and barely safe, but that night I drove her harder than she had ever been driven. Dirt roads, tarmac roads, hitting speed bumps at 60mph, she took it all. In part the memories we have in that car are why none of us can come to part with it. As I drove toward the built up area I called Emmanuel our chair of trustees, and my dear, dear friend. I explained what had happened, and he agreed to meet me at the hospital… “Is he still breathing??” I asked Mama Daudi, who was still terrified from the whole ordeal from Emmanuels condition to my driving. She could not reply. I tried again…. She wouldn’t answer me coherently. She kept talking about how It started, she was in shock. I wondered if my Swahili was too rough for her, so rang the staff… some agreed to meet me at the hospital whilst also failing to get Mama Daudi to answer us or make any sense. She just sat in the back, tenderly holding Emmanuel in her arms….
I raced into the hospital and checked myself, I was so worked up from the drive, I needed to calm down. I took a deep breath got out the car and took Emmanuel into my arms from Mama Daudi. Emmanuel was there to meet me, my eyes filled with tears for somehow seeing some support in this nightmare hour I had. I paused and looked down at Emmanuel, he right there in my arms began to fade. I ran into the hospital, but as I passed through the doors I felt it, I knew… I knew this little angel had gone, I knew I was too late, I knew he had left me. I ran into emergency and lay him on a bed, the doctor ran over, checked his pulse, looked at me and with a sorrowful smile shook his head. I remember raising my hands to my head, “ is he gone, is he gone!??” Indeed he was, my little smiler, my little ladies man who often smiled at the girls in the home, had left us, just like that, in a moment, in my arms, the angels took him, leaving me with nothing but a lifeless body in my arms to lay upon a bed. My heart broke in more than two that night.
Due to Emmanuels contorted torso from his cerebral palsy, resuscitation was not possible, his organs were not even in normal positions, and his rib cage blocked access to his heart. My heart broke, a boy who had smiled at me, loved me and I he for 2 years, gone. A few house before he was in his swing smiling and laughing, and now… there was a bed with a body and a blanket over it. The fragility of life shook me that night, and I think It has shook me daily since in fact. Not of my own, but of those God has entrusted to our care. I messaged Fritzi, she told me she was coming back the next day, but I didn’t hardly believe it for some reason. A few of the staff had gathered at this point as I walked outside. “He’s dead” I said in a daze… “He’s gone…” There were tears, and hugs and many mumbled what happened and whys…. We are a family in the end, blood relations or not, we are a family, and the pain we feel when a child dies shows me we get that part right at least if nothing else.
“2 cars never started…” I said, as we stood quietly outside… “What, what what” came back at me from all angles. “How can that be!?” “Iv no idea” I replied, but I drove home that night with nothing but 2 questions in my head.
“Why did the cars not start” and “Should I have worked on him at the childrens village before we left…” Those questions still haunt me a little today I dare say. He might have been disabled, but he was so happy in life! So happy! Iv said it before using the analogy of a fallen tree I once found… The tree was on its side, its canopy on the ground, but is roots still in the ground. As the canopy no longer shaded the light of the sun from its trunk, it was covered in tiny shoots of life, that other trees of its kind are lacking. You see, just because something doesn’t grown in a normal way, can often mean that the light can access it in a different way, and with it express life in a different way with it. Be it a tree, or a child, Iv found the equation to be true of both. Emmanuel did not have a body like most of, but due to it the canopy of his mind was in a different position to ours, and the light of God shone brightly into, and through him due to it. It shone so bright it allowed him to express life in a way so dazzling, that words can barely describe it, but spend time with most special needs children, and you will in time, if not immediately, understand what I mean. His smile, his light, was like those shoots on the tree I saw, a one off, as his mind did not shade him from Gods light as ours often can, he was pure, and expressed joy purely with it, despite his physical differences.
The staff believed that Satan had taken Emmanuel for a while, that he had battled me that night and won. For a time I wondered if it could be true, I mean why did they not start! In time however I realised, only God would call home a child whose body sometimes hurt him, a child who likely looked upon the other children and hoped to run or walk. A child who often vomited, but laughed every time he did at least! J Emmanuel for all filled with joy, had suffered, he spent most of his life alone staring at a tin sheet roof in the hills, neglected through poverty as his parents just couldn’t take time to not work and care for him properly. I resided to the idea in the end that God took Emmanuel that night, that God made my cars not start. Perhaps he never wanted me to get to hospital in time, perhaps it was fated that he die in my arms outside the doors. This to I, is the only version of events I can cope with, and the only one that accounts for the God I know. God rules in our childrens village, his angels guard us like legions of spartans day and night, you can feel it, people have visited us and wept on entry with the energy, you can literally feel them. Thus, why, why would God let anything slip in this one night, thus I know God took our little boy that ngiht, took him to a far brighter place than the one I could provide him with, of that I am certain. Now let me tell you what happened when Fritzi returned, as this to this day also reminds me where Emmanuel is, and that perhaps for all that night was a painful ordeal for he, I and all involved, that he forgives me for not making it in time, or he accepts what went on, that he owns the events of that evening I am still often plagued with doubts and rejection over. Fritzi did indeed return home the next night, my dear darling Fritzi was on a plane in less than 10 hours of me calling her. She is quite the blessing in this crazy life of mine, and I hope will be forever more. After dealing with the burial arrangements, and a long day hiking into the hills to tell his family, mother and father we headed home. Before I tell the next part, I want to add, the despair in those hills was soul destroying, I could see the parents pain, their regret for not visiting recently, and his older sister collapsed with emotion screaming “my brother, no please, my brother…” However let me add a silver lining in a way. The sister arrived at our place a week later, just to sit with the children, just to perhaps feel close to her brother again. It’s a big journey, 2 or 3 hours hike. She sat there for hours, her love for her brother and the way she had clearly helped care for him whilst she was not labouring showed brightly with the other children. The family are desperately poor, you must understand their home is a mud and stick shack, you can even put your arms through the walls at places, and its up a height, so a miserable living condition at best. Seeing her tenderness, we offered her a job caring for the children, and we also held a fund raiser to build the family a brick house, both were a huge success. The family and their 7 small children have a brick house, and Emmanuels sister is now one of our best care workers by far.
Now as I was saying, we had spent the day breaking this news to the family, and returned home at 10:30 at night… both exhausted, and needing to cook we slumped into our little 2 room house. A miserable feeling hung over the day, the night, over everything. However in a moment, that feeling lifted… as we sat down I looked up and in utter amazement I gently called “Fritzi… look…” Above us 8 butterflies fluttered with all the majesty and grace of angels around our room. 10:30 at night, 8 butterflies, and its not something normal, iv never seen it before or since, and I doubt ever will with it. I sat back on the couch… “Hello Emmanuel…” I whispered… “Thank you, I am glad you’re safe, we love…” I continued… I have no doubt that’s who it was, it was a sign from a boy who I loved, and love dearly and deeply. A sign from a boy I’m still not sure I have accepted left as he did, a child whose death belongs to a story in a night of my life, Im not sure I quite own as yet, perhaps these few words iv written will help with that, who knows. What I do know is, I admittedly perhaps could have done more that night, I could have done more work on Emmanuel before I went for the car namely, but then, I never made the cars fail to start, and as I said iv resided to the fact who am I but a lowly servant on borrowed time, in a gifted experience of life and time to an almighty creator, as we all are in the end I guess. If God wanted Emmanuel so bad he would force two perfectly good cars to fail at once, then perhaps Iv nothing to doubt, to forgive, perhaps I just need to toughen up, accept that a child died in my arms that night. Soon a child of my own will be born and placed into my arms in fact, and the thought of this is beautiful to us all…. but without the fading and rising of life, would it be as beautiful I must ask. I guess that’s the value of it, the fact its temporary, it in stills a value in this thing we call life, but it makes the experience of an up close good bye to a child no easier. Despite all of my inner conflicts and confusion though, I am blessed among this really, and my story here has an important pinnacle… the butterflies. For what more do we need to know, the thing they teach us is this…. Death is not the end, so why grieve? For those we lose? Or for that we lose, the gift of their presence and beauty in our lives. In the most part for me, I am selfish in that sense, I grieve for the loss in my own life, for I after all these years in service of God and caring for the sick, that death is not the end, it’s a move, a transition, perhaps a beginning… a temporary inconvenience, but a painful and difficult one none the less.
So I want to say this as a final note, to all the doctors, nurses, aid worker, parents, brothers, sisters, care givers… to all who lose children, be it more regularly as doctors and nurses and alike face, or be it once in a life time… I love you all, and despite the pain, the confusion, the anguish, the doubts, we must for ourselves do something very important. For some this thing will come easier than others, but we are all different so for many it will not. We must own the story of times, events and questions of those we lose. If we don’t, they can sit in you, they can make you ill even. I know, I am perhaps guilty of this, its perhaps now whilst I am fasting and praying that this urge at 3 am to write this has overtaken me. Somehow in accepting what went on, not accepting their passing, for all it may be part of it, but accepting the events that went on, with no what ifs, buts and whys, then we ourselves can go on, we can move with a little more acceptance, and perhaps in moving in that way, we can do more to honour that young life, that shone so brightly in our lives, honour that life that will always make us the men and women, doctors, nurses, mums and dads, brothers and sisters we are. For when we can remember their light, with no shade, no shade from doubts about their passing, or ifs, whats and whys about what we might have done different, then we can remember the brightness of those children, and we can without nothing in the way of our memories of the good times we shared with these children, tell the world of their humility, their precious love and their impact on this world that might be unknown to most, but to us changed it completely.…
So here is my attempt at that, this is dedicated to our little Emmanuel, a truly stunning boy, with a smile as big and bright as the sun and larger stars, and a soul as deep as the ocean and universe itself, a child who will be a part of every action I act, every footstep I take, every word I speak in this life, a child your lives are not as rich as they should be if you did not meet him, a child that for a brief time on this earth kept the term love elevated and In existence, that unified connected field of love we all hope to touch and tap in to daily, he shone into that, with all his might, in his corner of the world, and played his part in keeping that light of love burning for all our generations to come. I think of you often Emmanuel, but I hope now to think of smiles we shared, and not the day I bid your good night one last time. I love you, I know you see us, I know you watch us, I know you guard us, I know you love us… but still, we will always miss you, and rightly so. We know God loves us, but still we hope to return to see him someday, for that is love in the end, the need to be unified of reunified with that which warms and nourished our hearts and souls, and you warmed and nourished all who were lucky enough to know you.