This morning I found out that a very important little friend of mine took her last breath yesterday. For those of you who have been reading my ramblings since my arrival in Niger, you might remember R.'s story. For those of you that are new, you can check out bits of our time together here, here, here, here and here.
R. was the patient that convinced my Nigerien colleagues that I was a worthwhile part of the team. Suddenly I was so much more than another single white girl that showed up on the bush plane one day. R. was one of their's, and by providing her with a make-shift wheelchair that would meet her unique needs, I cared for their whole community.
Suspicion dissolved into understanding . . . invisible barriers came crumbling down. They got it: I wasn't here to give life, I was here to give living. Because of her, others came . . . because of her, others trusted me with their loved ones.
R. was the breakthrough . . . and now she's gone.
I don't know exactly what happened. I've heard that she had bleeding sores in her mouth . . . and that she had died in the ER before the doctor even arrived.
But how she died doesn't really matter.
Her suffering on this earth is over, and I trust that she is now in the presence of Jesus, running, playing and speaking Hausa with other miniature friends of mine, like Little N. and H.A. and his sister, that have gone on ahead of her.
About nine months ago I officially stopped my therapy sessions with R. We had hit a major plateau, and her seizures were getting worse, which only intensified her spasticity. I stopped in to check on her from time to time, but my drop-ins became fewer and further between . . . it's actually been several months since I've even seen her.
There is so much about her story that brings tears to my eyes . . . the hunger she had to learn to read . . . the love she had for hearing Bible stories . . . the devastating fever that reeked havoc on her brain . . . the selfless, unending love that her Granny demonstrated . . . the joy on her face when her mom or siblings played with her . . . the memory of her laughter as she screamed with glee during our therapy sessions . . . our anti-spasticity 'hugs' on the floor of the gym . . . and the special way she said goodbye to me before I returned to the US in 2012.
But as I remember her, my heart is drawn, once again, to Heaven. The place where every one of our tears will be wiped away . . . and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain . . . and malaria will be banished, and typhoid, and TB of the spine. There will be no more burns or motorcycle accidents . . . and children will have full bellies . . . and young women will not burry their husbands or babies.
So as I prepare my head for offering my condolences to the family tomorrow, my heart clings to hope that Heaven is waiting and Jesus is worthy of the investment in this weary place. We make a physical difference so that the soul can find life.