How else can one feel about things when a four year old is taken from us for no reason while 65 families have more wealth than billions of people combined?
It was a typical Sunday morning for Joy and me. We started out at Appleseed then went over to the football pitch to watch our under 15 team play. The other team did not show up so we decided to run over to Lucy, Jenni and Colette’s house to bring them some clothes and shoes that had been in the car for a while. When I approached the house I heard it. It was clear, utterly familiar and unmistakable. I had heard these sounds before, but I was still confused. I think we are always confused when we are facing something so horrible that our brain doesn’t let us see clearly no matter how obvious. It was the wailing. It was the chorus of women mourning an unimaginable loss.
Joy and I first witnessed this when we escorted Moses, an AISL employee, home to inform his mother that her husband had just been killed in a terrifying bike accident in front of the American school. The outpouring of grief, loss and utter despair is something that stays with you … forever. So when I heard it yesterday I should not have been confused, but I was.
What was going on? And then it hit me … like a sledgehammer. Someone was gone … and it was a member of Lucy, Jenni, Colette, Patrick, and Shadreck’s family! Please, not grandma. We just saw her. She was fine. Who will take care of the girls?
No, it wasn’t grandma. Whew! But who, what was going on?
And then another sledgehammer and more confusion when the Aunt came out from the “wailing room” and came up to me and said, “Ken, we have lost Colette.” What? Of course I did not hear that correctly. Colette is the youngest in the family. She’s only 4. Colette was at Appleseed in her preschool class on Friday. Colette was playing with her older brother Patrick on Saturday. This is Sunday morning. Surely, I must have lost something in translation. Please, I must have heard wrong … but I didn’t. Colette was gone. COLETTE! The reality hit and I staggered, fell to my knees and began to sob. Apparently, she woke up during the night with a high fever and Grandma took her to the clinic but by morning she was gone.
I know this is not the end of days. And I know that time, as it always does, will soften this blow. I don’t care about the concentration of wealth and the inordinate suffering in the world. I don’t give a shit. I just want to hug Colette again. I just want to watch her smile and laugh when she is playing with her friends at Appleseed. I just want to watch her grow up. I want, I want, I want … I feel so selfish.
I guess helpless is the word. We try to help. We bring food, give money for burial, but, the suffering just goes on and on. How is fair that some people in this world have lives full of suffering while others cruise through life as if they are charmed?
Me…. I have had a charmed life. Raised in a happy middle class home with the greatest example of love and family that there ever could be. I had close friends, a tight knit extended family. Best husband and daughters I could ever even imagine.
I didn’t’ experience death until I was 13, I think, an elderly neighbor and family friend. The next death I experienced wasn’t’ until adulthood. Of course, it is expected that the older you get, the more sorrow you will experience. It is a charmed life that gets the advantage of age and growth in order to be better able to deal with tragedy.
My friends here in Zambia experience tragic and unnecessary death all of the time. It is expected and accepted. I know more orphaned children and young adults than I ever could have imagined 5 years ago. People lose a loved one. They mourn. They begin to get back to normal (their normal- nothing like my normal)
…. then boom, another loss. It seems a part of everyday life for so many people here. Each tragic and heartbreaking.
I will miss this little girl with all of my heart. Colette started at Appleseed about 8 months ago, but we met her in 2012 when she was just a baby. She was finally old enough to be an Appleseedling. Her brothers already live at the center, her two sisters have been Appleseedlings for a few years. It was so wonderful having little Colette too. She had begun blossoming, smiling and laughing with her friends in the pre-grade class. We saw her sisters bloom in the same way when they first began at Appleseed.
And then, this morning………….. we had just left the boys at the soccer pitch. We had a box of clothes and shoes that I had been meaning to take to Jenny, Lucy and Colette. So, we headed to their house. We immediately knew that something was terribly wrong. The house was wailing as a Zambian home does when someone has died.
This family suffered this just 2 weeks ago when the young father to Jenny, Lucy and Colette passed away. And now, after having a high fever in the middle of the night, little Colette died at the clinic this morning.
I don’t know how people persevere. I don’t know how to change this reality.
The inequities….. the luck or un-luck of birth…. makes no sense... simply unacceptable.
We love you, Colette
Ken and Joy Hoffman. See the'Who We Are' page.