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five minute friday: remember

Posted Mar 22 2013 11:41am
Linking up again with Lisa-Jo Baker and a whole community of free writers for Five Minute Friday .

Today's prompt: Remember.


Last week, I was talking with another nurse about a patient we took care of in Liberia five years ago. You remember him, right? He was in bed ten in B Ward. We did a neck and arm contracture release. His father crocheted hats and spoke fourteen languages. I didn't realize until I saw her shaking her head and laughing that these sorts of details aren't typically stored up for this long.

I remember them.

I sit here in front of my computer and their names and faces and stories mix and swirl in my heart. Hope and healing to the world's forgotten poor. Except they're not forgotten. Not as long as we stand to bear witness to their lives, not as long as we remember them and tell their stories.

The other day at work, I met a woman close to my age. When she was three days old, an oil lamp fell on her while her mama slept, burning her face and arm, fusing her chin to her chest and destroying one of her hands. She has three children, and when I asked her their ages, it took almost five minutes for her to explain that the youngest is nearly two, the middle one is five and that there's another boy, too, older than the rest. She can't remember how old he is. She can't do the math because she was never able to go to school.

This other mama sat up straight in her bed as she told me her story, a flood of details that spilled out through twisted lips and over clumsy tongue. I held her hand in mine, her three bent fingers finding their places in the spaces between mine while I thought of my own firstborn, of the thousands of photos, every detail of her short seven months carefully recorded and catalogued and stored away for future reference. I have an entire book of letters I wrote to her when she was still inside me, letters full of the promise and the hope of her.

All this mama has is a lifetime of pain and one bright spark of hope that, somehow, someday, she'll be able to stop begging and get a job selling clothes in the market.

I memorize the lines of her face, the smooth stump of her hand and the thinness of her legs under the blanket. Many years down my own road, I will remember her. I will tell her story, because it's the best way I know to honour her life. And maybe one day I'll be back here in Guinea and I will buy fabric from her on the side of a dusty street in a crowded market.

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