Why is it the joy of others makes my hurt ache more acutely?
My mom died 7 months ago.
I remember a deep sadness settling over me around 6 months. At that point, her death was becoming reality. She wasn’t gone on a prolonged vacation. My initial daily impulses to text her pictures of Hannah had waned to weekly occurrences.
And though for me time has made her death painfully real, for those who knew her only as “Val’s mom,” these months have eroded the memory of that abrupt event.
If you’ve lost, you’ve experienced this. Your dear friend’s life stopped–it feels like yours with it—while everyone else’s goes on.
Thanksgiving exists in Kenya only insofar as we expats create it.
On Thursday I was visiting with a Kenyan friend–Carol runs one of the small shops by the hospital—when she wished me, “Happy Thanksgiving.” It was 2:00 in the afternoon and the holiday hadn’t occurred to me!
If you’ve lost, you know the power of death to transform holidays into horrible days. My forgetfulness seemed a boon, enabling me to carry on with studying Swahili and making chapatti free from that burden of grief.
Thursday evening the Roberts, another missionary family, hosted a gathering to sing and share thanks. We were encouraged to hear how God has provided this year amid election strife and doctors’ and nurses’ strikes and sickness and confusion.
Thanksgiving dinner at Tenwek*
The greatest blessing I received that night was this: pumpkin bars.
Yes, in Kenya we crave those “hard-to-gets.” Clark dreams of apple cider and sharp Vermont cheddar cheese. I remember fondly the innumerable bags of Goldfish crackers stashed around my hospital work area.
But the gift of this dessert went beyond a satisfied sweet tooth.
Pumpkin bars have long been my favorite fall treat. Every year–once a year at Thanksgiving–my mom would make them. Served warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, my sisters and I could finish off a 13X9 pan of that gourd goodness with appropriate efficiency.
This week, as I ate, I remembered mom.
I remembered her love for holidays. Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays were preceded by months of preparation. As young children–pre-calendar awareness—we knew the filling freezer shelfs signaled the approach of one of those special days.
As adults, we didn’t need frozen peanut butter pie or cheesy-onion-broccoli casserole to lure us back home. But mom loved us, and she knew a little butter and cream wouldn’t hurt familial relations!
Thanksgiving 2016 with my family
Jenny Roberts didn’t realize, but in making those pumpkin bars she enabled me to grieve mom with joy and gratitude.
This year, I am thankful for Jenny Roberts, for local pumpkin, for my mom.
And I’m thankful for all of you who support us. Through you the Lord has brought us to Kenya and provided a home, a church, a family, and work at a hospital where He is moving every day to transform lives.
(*photo credit: Dean Cowles)