Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grief and joy

The anniversary of the earthquake was not simply one day of mourning. It was a whole week of remembering and grieving and reliving the trauma. I had trouble sleeping that week and had several nightmares; I woke up most mornings already emotionally drained, just from my restless nights. The worst part was how intense and ripe the memories were. I was constantly thinking to myself, "One year ago today, at this exact time, I was climbing over the rubble of my street." Or "One year ago, right now, they'd found Bill's body and I was running up the hill expecting to find him a bloody broken mess." The victims who died under my care, the ones who should have died and did not, the night at the hospital with Bill, the sights and sounds and smells of the all came flooding back. I suppose that's how it is for everyone who has lived through a really painful incident.

I was relieved to discover that my primary emotion was sorrow. There was fear and a lot of questions for God, but none of the guilt and anger that had plagued me for months last year. I cried a lot during the week of January 12th; in fact, almost anytime that I was alone, I cried for those I'd lost, for the burden of responsibility I had carried in the early days, for the loneliness I'd felt as my friends evacuated, and for the fear that reigned for months afterwards. I grieved for the memories of those emotions, but I didn't feel them. Grief is difficult, but at the same time, it's almost soothing and healing in its pain.

And then, 10 days after the anniversary, I walked across the street to St Joseph's and beheld something beautiful. For the first time since the quake, all the boys were back, along with all the members of the dance troupe and some of the children from Wings of Hope, the handicapped home. They were all together and you could taste their excitement!

What an afternoon it was! A pair of popular singers from Puerto Rico who had donated a large sum of money for reconstruction was visiting for the first time, so the boys had gathered to perform for them and thank them. The last time I saw the boys dance was the night before the earthquake. So seeing them dance almost exactly one year later, with the same enthusiasm and passion, was amazing.

The next source of joy was being reunited with Ben Skinner, my friend and Times magazine author. He is the one who flew in 4 days after the earthquake to medivac Bill to the US. We spent one terrifying night all together in my Shoebox, with some of the worst tremors I've experienced, and then one trying but victorious morning at the airport, campaigning to get Bill out. I've seen Ben a few times since that day, and each time, it is a delight to have him back and each time, he cries when he leaves.

It gets even better though. Bill has spent almost the entire year in the US and Canada fundraising, but he was home for this event and he drummed. When I was taking care of him after the quake, his injuries were so bad that he asked me once if he would ever drum again. I remember so clearly grabbing his shoulders and with tears in my eyes, answering him, "You will drum again, Bill Nathan. I promise you that." And here he was, drumming. Drumming with the same strength and intensity that he'd had before he fell to what should have been his death.

But the pinnacle, the greatest moment, was seeing one 13 year old boy. Of all the St Joe's boys, TiPatrick was the one I knew best when the earthquake happened and he is the one who should have died on the field from his injuries. He's the only person I cried over that first night and the one that I prayed most desperately for. Since the quake, he has been living with the other boys in Jacmel and I have not seen him. Reports have told me that he's doing well physically, but that doesn't mean a thing until I've seen him with my own eyes. And on Thursday, I did just that. I saw, hugged and rejoiced over TiPatrick.

Joy. Out of such grief. Joy.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

this is an awesome post :) im glad you found so much happiness!! xoxo