During preparation, you are told and come to peace with the fact that your call takes you to distant lands, and that means you won’t be there if something happens at home. You’ll have phone calls and internet (if it works), but you won’t be able to feel your family’s arms wrap around you. You won’t be able to say goodbye. Your tears are yours alone. I was glad when my mom called me to tell me my dog had needed emergency surgery. I knew what was happening. I knew everyone was pulling for her and the outlook was favorable, so when my ringing phone woke me up the next morning, the news of her passing hurt, but it wasn’t completely out of the blue. I still got up. I still went to work. I kept my grief to myself during the day and talked to my mom regularly. I went to a fellow missionary’s house, and I was able to talk through it. I felt better, but the guilt of not being there when she needed me still eats at me sometimes.
Maybe I should have warned you this wouldn’t be a happy go lucky kind of post…
I think that God knew I needed someone. He looked down and saw past my crumbling façade and reached out his hand in the form of sending Martha to me. While I was enjoying my friend and a light of happiness, the phone call came again. My mom had left work early because my uncle wasn’t doing well. I knew when I left the United States that he would likely not be there when I return in three years. I expected him to just fade away. What I didn’t expect was how sick he would get right at the end. Growing up, I just sort of figured he’d drink himself to death. When that’s the thought in your head, you don’t think he’ll end up in the hospital with raging sepsis and pneumonia likely from aspiration. It’s strange, but what I feel most guilty, most sad about is that I wasn’t there for my brother, and I’m not there now to help my dad make sense of the insanity that was my uncle’s world. A year of training as a case manager under my belt, and when I could use that to help my family, I’m thousands of miles and a poor internet connection away. It was as though a second massive wave had hit me before I could get a full breath in. Having Martha with me those first few days was my saving grace. I was able to vent, to cry and to smile. She helped me…Okay, she kicked my butt into high gear…get my apartment looking and feeling more like home. We played games (her wiping the floor with me in Phase 10 and me returning the favor with Rummy, a game I haven’t played in years). We went to the market. We watched movies. We relaxed.
When I was little, we prayed to our guardian angels. As strange as it may sound, that was one of the easiest things for me to believe. Maybe it’s because my imagination really likes the idea of an angel walking beside me steering me out of danger or helping me make decisions, or maybe it was an easy explanation for the little things. I used to keep a “Blessings Journal” filled with the little things I was thankful for and the instances where I could look back and say, “I had help”. Anyway, I started one again. Being here, it’s easy to identify the things taken for granted while living in the U.S.; things like hot water, or heck, even running water, regular electricity, high speed internet, grocery stores, and paved roads. While Martha was here, that once familiar feeling of someone looking out for me was back in the form of a latte (something else we take for granted). Seeing “latte macchiato” on the menu almost brought me to tears, so she and I made a special trip back just to enjoy liquid human happiness with foam so think it could almost support the weight of the teaspoon. You see, it’s the little things. It’s the little reminders to smile or the latte when all you need is a touch of home or the quilt to curl up in when all you need is a hug. Is it a stroke of luck or a guardian angel? Like the number of licks needed to get to the center of a tootsie pop, we may never know.