Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Goodbyes are never easy

As I spend time with these children at the end of my time in Uganda, I find that just looking at some of them makes my heart fall into my stomach and a feeling of sadness rushes through me. I have never felt this kind of sad before. I wonder to myself, What will he look like when he grows up? Will she still be at the school the next time I return to Lukaya? If I leave and don’t return for a year or more, will they remember me? 

 I do have faith that the teachers and staff that take care of these kids will continue to love and nourish them far into the future. In the most selfish way possible, I wish I could stay here for that reason alone—to continue showing them how much I love each of them. To say it in the simplest terms, I am attached to these munchkins.


 I will always keep the memories from every child’s smiles, giggles, and hugs saved in my heart.

When we returned from safari, I received heartbreaking news. I had barely set my stuff down when Viola (Headmaster’s 3 yr. old daughter who lives next door) came knocking at my door shouting in a sing-voice, “Apio is gone. Apio is not here. Apio is goneeee…!” I was thinking, what on earth is this kid jabbering on about? Then it hit me. My God, Apio is gone. Constance (Apio and Viola’s auntie) stepped up to my veranda and confirmed, “Yes, what Viola is trying to say is that Apio and Asano went to the village for holiday. They left a few hours ago. They will visit their families and return at the end of January.” The “village” in this case means a 10-hour commute to Eastern Uganda.

I was speechless. Even typing this gives me a tight feeling in my chest. I love those little girls like family; I have no idea when I will be able to see them again. The last time I spoke to Apio was Thursday night—she came to my door as she does each evening and tapped gently then said:
“Auntie Kristen…”
As I always do, I replied, “Good evening, Apio. Are you going to bed now?”
“Good evening. Yes, I go to sleep now.”
“Okay, well sleep tight, Sweetheart! I love you lots.”
“And me, I love you.”
“See you tomorrow, Angel.” 
“I will like when I see you tomorrow, Auntie! Sula balungi! [Good night]”
Apio and I snuggling on my veranda at dusk earlier this year

If I were lucky enough to see her before I leave, I would say this: “Dearest Apio, I will like to see you some day’s tomorrow too. Until then, I hope you will always remember how deep my love for you runs—how loud my prayers for your future are said—and how fondly I will always look back to my year with you. Little darling, I love you.” I am kicking myself for not having said it before.   

These children have given me something I can never repay. These kids have taught me to love first, be kind second, and always remember that we are all here together. The worst of days will never seem that bad with these lessons in mind. 

I am sure I will shed many more tears before I leave Uganda. I’m trying my “level best” to hang on to the brilliantly happy good times I have shared with these kids and not spend too much time worrying about the distance of time and space I am about to put between us.

With love for those back home and in Uganda,

**Author’s note: I have been compiling this post for the last several weeks. In light of recent events, I published today’s blog with an even heavier heart. My thoughts and prayers are with those who were affected by the tragic loss of life in Connecticut. 

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