Me with Sweet Mirembe July 2008
Two years ago, when I lived my dream of traveling to Africa, I knew my heart would break while there. I was prepared as one can be for the broken heart that comes with a trip to Africa. I have said it before, but just in case you missed it. Africa takes a piece of you when you go there. What I didn't plan on was falling in love with a little girl who was dying. When I say falling in love I mean it. I can explain it no other way than it was of God. From the moment we met my heart was hers. It didn't hurt that her name means peace. The word I have tattooed on my foot.
My sweet Mirembe was just 4 years old then. She had just come into the home where we were staying, adopted by our friends Caleb and Rhita. My understanding is that she had been abandoned by her parents because she had sickle cell anemia. That hasn't stopped Caleb and Rhita from loving her. Mirembe and I couldn't communicate with each other verbally as she only understood a tribal language. She had a beautiful little head with shave hair. He eyes were beautiful but they held a wisdom I have never seen in such a young child. Her body was small for four I think even by African standards. To me she looked to be somewhere between 18 months and 2.
I tried to play with her all week. I bought her a little stuffed toy in the market because African children do not have toys. Sunday afternoon though I had the chance to spend the whole afternoon playing with her. Near the end of the day, I was hiding behind the couch and popping out at her, after about four times of this she let out this belly laugh. Laughter translates through any language barrier, just like the baby's cries I wrote about on the Africa blog. In that moment, we were in a thin place where we understood each other. Rhita came running from the kitchen, Becca you made her laugh. She hasn't laughed yet. It was a simple moment of joy for me the Mzungu lady from afar and this scared little girl in a brand new place.
Mirembe a few months ago.
I get updates about Mirembe regularly. I call her my African baby. It has been a roller coaster of emotions as she gets ill and recovers. Today we received word that Mirembe has taken a bad turn again. She has become paralized on her left side, she is also loosing her vision in her left eye and can only take liquids. She has had a CT Scan and it seems her brain is covered in lesions. I don't understand what this means. It seems though the the pairing of the words brain and lesion can't be good. I started sobbing and shaking as soon as I read the e-mail. I also tear up but this is not my normal reaction. I told Paul I needed to take a shower so Lilia didn't see me all upset. When I said my African baby is sick he knew what I meant. I sobbed so hard in the shower. It felt like I was punched in the gut. I got out and I still wasn't done, I was whimpering. I felt all shaky. I had to take a few minutes to calm myself down. That is why I am here writing.
Two years and an ocean apart this little girls still has my heart. She taught be something about myself. When I met her, Paul and I were starting to accept that we most likely wouldn't have a biological child. The moment I saw Mirembe I knew I could love a child with a deep motherly love no matter how they came into the world. If she hadn't already been adopted and it weren't for those pesky legalities, I probably would have brought her with me. I have always had a gift of loving children and understanding them. At that moment though I knew that adopted children were in my future because I was aware of the depth of love in my soul. I have in some ways adopted Mirembe at least in my heart.
I can tell you this all was nothing less than being of God. Her laugh stays with me, her eyes cut through me. Her love quiets my soul. I don't know if she remembers me but I will never forget her.
Please join me in lifting her up to God today as well as Caleb and Rhita.
I should add that in keeping with the original intention of gratitude on this blog. I am so grateful for our week together. Even more so for our Sunday afternoon and that moment of laughter. Some of the most precious moments of my life.