Earthquakes, Wind Storms and Grieving

Yesterday I woke in the early hours of the morning to our bed shaking. In my dazed state I thought it must have been really windy outside. Joel thought the security guard was banging on the window so got up to check. It turns out we had experienced a mild 4.6 magnitude earthquake. When I came to Zambia I knew I’d have to worry about things like snakes, but earthquakes were never on my list. Thankfully everyone was fine.

The afternoon before we had finally experienced some rains after a dry spell. By now rainy season should be in full force. People have planted their crops but the maize is starting to die. We were thankful to see rain falling from the sky but with it came very strong winds. After things had calmed I was out for a walk and ran into my friend Esther. She shared the sad news that our friend Choolwe’s mother had just died and they were rushing to the hospital. The roof of her house blew off in the wind storm and tragically she was struck and killed. Her father was in the hospital with serious injuries and and a few other relatives had been injured as well.

Choolwe is the boarding chaperone for the girls at MICS. Three days ago I was sitting with her in her home as she told me she couldn’t wait to be with the kids again. Today I hugged her as she cried and told me how special her mother was. Nathaniel and I attended the service at her village home. We sat under the shade of the tree while people sang, the sound of wailing not far off and many pots of nshima cooking outside the home. The women just sit together, sing and cry often for days on end. There are no trite statements like “everything happens for a reason” and “it was all part of God’s plan.” Just being together and grieving.

The damage to the house is extensive. The community centre across the dirt road lost much of its roof as well. It will take time to rebuild as the resources and funding will not be readily available. Clearly Choolwe and her family are still in shock and have a long road of grieving ahead of them. Her father, who will remain in the hospital for several weeks, will not be there to bury his wife tomorrow. Amidst the pain, it was a beautiful thing to see the community coming together to support the family. The power of simple presence in the face of grief. It was an honour to be part of it for a few short hours.

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