Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Last Christmas (Eve) She Gave Them Her Heart....

And the very next day God took her away....
Today marks one whole year since my son's friend lost his then eight year old sister. When we attended the memorial service held here in Nairobi in our school auditorium, before the family left for the funeral in the United States, I was stunned to see how much had been accomplished by their close friends and the Church family, in less than forty eight hours after the beloved child had gone to God.
A collage of beautiful photographs greeted us at the entrance to the auditorium. Pictures of the adorable little girl with her parents, with each sibling and with extended family made it seem so hard to believe she was gone. So lifelike were the pictures that I felt she would pop out of the photos and start bouncing around on an auditorium seat in a minute, which was where I had seen her last, just two and a half weeks earlier, at the school Christmas concert.
Her father had put together a lovely video of shots from her short life of eight years. It truly was a labour of love and did not leave a dry eye in the jam packed auditorium. Her former teacher and family friends shared some anecdotes about her, a couple of which will remain with me forever.
We live within a stone's throw from their house and our houses are very close to the UNHCR- United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees. This means there are always long lines of refugees queueing up outside the office, near the road we all use. I had often spotted a lady with a baby and a toddler on the road that connects two sides of the highway, across the road from UNHCR, that our houses are close to. It's a tricky, steep curve to negotiate and my first thought always was " I hope she keeps a tight hold on that toddler. The last thing we need in this country is to get involved in an accident." And the next thoughts were, " Why do they continue having kids when they don't even have a shelter over their heads and there's no food in their bellies?"
The little girl too spotted this family on her way to and fro from school with her Mom and siblings. And while my thoughts were selfish and irritable ones, hers were far more noble. She asked her mother to pack food for this family, so she could give it to them before Christmas, last year. And so, before school closed or just around a week  before her accident, they distributed packets of food to the refugee mother and children.
The other incident was shared by a church member. The family had attended the Christmas Eve service at their Church on 24th December. All the Sunday School children were given little red soap stone hearts. This little girl, already having received her own, was standing at the door to help distribute the hearts as the children left the church. The lady with her realized that more children than expected had attended the service and they were fast running out of hearts. So she quickly turned to the child beside her and asked, "Anna, can you give me your heart?"
This lady told us during the memorial service, that Anna did not demur and there was not a minute's hesitation. In an instant, Anna had whipped out her soap stone heart and had handed it over to the next child leaving the service. How many eight year olds do you know who would have given away a gift that they had received just minutes ago? In less than twenty four hours, they told us, after her fall, she had cardiac failure, even as she fought for her life. Strange and unbelievable are the ways of life....I salute her parents who inculcated such marvellous values in her, in the short time that God had chosen to grant them with their little girl.
My biggest lesson came from Anna's father. He actually thanked God for having given them forty eight hours to prepare themselves and to say good bye to their darling daughter. He spoke of the two nights spent in hospital, talking to her, singing to her, just willing for her to wake up. But that was not to be.
This lesson stood me in good stead when, last September, my own daughter left for medical college in India but was back in Nairobi within a month because the Supreme Court in India had cancelled all medical admissions of international students, citing a lack of a newly introduced entrance exam, which these students had categorically been told earlier, in writing, was not applicable to them. While we did file cases in the Supreme Court Of India, together with other Non Resident Indian parents, (which we subsequently lost) because the cancellation of a hard and competitively earned admission was truly an unfair decision, no part of me regretted that my daughter was back with me for a few months more. It meant my daughter losing an academic year but what's a year when I know my friends would give anything and everything, in a heart beat, to have their own daughter back...
When I saw Anna's date of birth on the memorial program, I was flabbergasted because on that very day, 17th July, 2007, I had lost a very close and dear school friend, a brilliant doctor, in a horrible road accident in my home town in India. She left behind two very young daughters. Unimaginable are the ways that connect us to people we feel a bond with...
. On the 27th of January 2016, in the evening, as I was walking in my compound with my husband, like I do almost every evening, I saw two deep furrows of brilliant, golden light right above the location of Anna's house, deeply resembling large angel wings. They were clearly visible for around five minutes, before they disappeared. Skeptics will call it a play of the light of the setting sun, of clouds being positioned in a particular way against the light or something on those lines. I know what I saw. I had never seen it earlier and I have not seen it since...
 I knew I had to mark the date of her passing in some way every month. I thought if we could all send good thoughts and wishes and prayers on the 27th of each month to her parents and close family in the States, at least they would know people were thinking about them and their little girl. And so I began sharing a small rhyme each month in the ' Remembering Anna' group that her Aunt had created. I loved her middle name JEWELL so much that I tried to centre the rhymes around it. Both her grandmothers and a grand aunt, heart broken as they were, never failed to thank me for remembering and nor did her father, whenever we met in school. Her Mom gave us a beautiful 'Thank You' card when we had them over at our house, just before school closed for the academic year, last May. It was clear to see where Anna had got her thoughtfulness from and that the apple had not fallen far from the tree..

Twelve Little Rhymes For the Twelve Months Since She Has Been Gone.

It's been a month,
But even God can't keep chirpy little Anna down,
She's already the sparkliest JEWELL in His crown...

Months it's been merely two,
Anna, JEWELL of your parents' hearts,
Not a day goes by when we don't think of you...

Months it's been all of three,
My favourite is her Mom's profile picture,
Of her JEWELL shimmering halfway up a tree!

Be it years forty or, like today, months just four,
Anna, glowing JEWELL,
Will remain firmly embedded in her family's core.

Months it's been already five,
Even as to stem our tears we strive,
A JEWELL'S cupped in His palm,
Well and alive...

Call it half a year,
Or say months six,
Of JEWELL hued memories,tears, photos, videos,
It's been a heart wrenching mix.
Our broken hearts only He can fix.

It's her Mommy Martha's birthday next week,
If, into their home, you will peek,
You will see it's raining down love, hugs and sparkly kisses,
She knows, that's what the most, her Mom misses.
So A JEWELL's sending them to her straight from heaven,
Hard to believe that today it's been months seven...

It was her destiny and her fate,
It was written on His slate,
That months ago today, exactly eight,
He, Himself, opened for A JEWELL, heaven's pearly gate.
In His time, it's never too early or too late,
But our tearful acceptance still remains inchoate..

Two days, plus the number of months it takes for a baby to be born,
Is how long it's been since that last, happy, Christmas morn.
And today it's been months all of nine,
Since A JEWELL'S glowing colours suffused with the Divine...

It was months ago, today, a total of ten,
That we saw tears streaming from the eyes of even grown men.
God's hows and whys are completely beyond our ken,
To see her again the family has a yen.
The rich colours of A beJEWELLED sky give a glimpse, now and then.

Months it's been an excruciating eleven,
And the family's strength, for us, has been an inspiring leaven.
If only they could make a quick call to heaven.
And tell A JEWELL she's being missed twenty four by seven...

It's a time of good will and cheer,
Everyone's wishing folks far and near.
But our thoughts only in one direction veer,
And through our hearts pain does sear,
And our eyes have many an unshed tear.
Today it's been one whole year,
Since we said goodbye to A JEWELL
So precious and dear..

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