Angel in a stone

27 October 2007

The other day Augustin picked-up something that fell out of my bag. It was a small, oval, clear plastic stone with an angel inside, a gift from a dear friend from home for a safe voyage and mission in Congo. He was of course fascinated at how the angel got in there. Augustin told me that he didn’t believe angels had wings; that they were just like us, walking around, every day. He told me that he thought it must be the angel Michael, inside my plastic stone.

In my last entry I wrote about how I was going to be left in charge of the project for the week because I was the most senior person here. On Friday I sent the team to Mukupa where we have a Cholera outbreak and I stayed behind. When they got there they radioed me to say that there were already 19 new cases for the day, double of the day before, so I made the decision to call the car back while the team stayed behind to work, so that I could send more supplies and another nurse.

About forty-five minutes later I heard the driver call on the radio and I knew immediately by the sound of his voice that something was terribly wrong. When I called him back over the radio he told me he had been in an accident, that he was ok, but that three people had been killed. I don’t know how to describe the seconds, minutes, hours or days that have passed since this moment, the moment when everything changed for the family of the people who were killed in this horrible accident, for our driver, for our team, for our project. I don’t know how to describe the overwhelming sadness that has fallen-down upon me, upon us all.

I do know that it is impossible not to think of the «what ifs? » What if I hadn’t called the car to come back? What if the car had left five minutes later? What if there were never any people dying of cholera in Mukupa who needed our help to begin with? I know that if I keep thinking this way I will be unable to get past the overwhelming sadness. I know that no matter what the details of what happened, it is nobody’s fault, it was nobody’s intention for this to happen. The car was on its way back to save the lives of the cholera patients in Mukupa, patents like the little boy I found nearly dead on my last visit to the CTC, who was sitting up eating a cookie an hour after I miraculously found an IV and could re-hydrate him. There was no other decision to make, but it doesn’t make it easier or less sad.

I don’t know a lot about saints or angels, but I think I would like to side with Augustin and believe that they are walking amongst us. I looked up the significance of St. Michael, as I have long been a heathen and did not know anything about him. I discovered that he is representative of many, many things, but what stayed with me is that he is considered to be a great healer. Heathen or not, I pray that if angels do exist, they are walking amongst us, helping us all to heal the wounds left behind from this experience, helping us to continue to try to heal the wounds of Congo and its people.