I write to you guys with a hit straight to the heart, stinging as I look over at nine month Wes sleeping on my floor and turn new facts over in my head.
Nadine and I balance comfortable silence with conversation about everything, what she’s looking at in my bag, Westhalineda’s health, a phone conversation with her mom, and ‘the news’. Word of mouth is the most reliable news source around here – it resembles gossip, but it’s different in that it’s genuinely reliable and the main source of what’s going on. And I swear it travels faster than the most popular post on Facebook.
We’re usually out in Bercy or at her house, but I’ve been trying to get lots of “office work” done today and after hours of waiting for me to “come out & play”, Nadine eventually opened my door and walked right in, plopping next to me with Wes as I worked.
In the middle of typing, talk of the night wrapping up, and getting Wes to fall asleep – Nadine randomly drops the line “Someone died today.”
Conversations take turns like this sometimes. No transition, just a miniature dropped bomb. I always have to check my Creole, repeating what I heard and asking if it was right. I heard right, and she listed random facts about where, the name of the person, and the word “pregnant”.
Sparing you the long conversation to piece it all together, a young woman who was pregnant died. She was in the middle of a procedure that had to do with the baby, and they both passed. Further talking told me that she was 17, the same age as Nadine, and a friend of hers. The father of the baby “wasn’t there”, that’s the most detail I got on him, and I’m guessing that’s described him for the past four months (that’s how far along she was). It was a sad story, and it definitely put a solemn tone to the conversation.
Nadine then told me that her friend had no mother, no father.
And then she broke my heart.
“Just like me.”
Said with a face that was just resigned with this fact, that she just leads a life of going it alone. The non-verbal here said so much more than those three little words. (Well, in Creole, the phrase was actually only two words. Said in a tone that seemed to just give up.)
We’ve talked before, you and I, about Nadine’s mom going to Venezeula (with at that time 16-year-old Nadine being the one taking the most charge of the home of no adults as she also mothered Wes). Well, Juslaine (in Venezuela now) is not actually Nadine’s mom, but the mom of Christella (or TiKris, one of the girls left in the home with Nadine). TiKris & Nadine share the same dad. I assumed for a long time that Juslaine was Nadine’s mother as well, but Nadine has actually been adamant the past few months about not being “a part” of the family (Juslaine’s family and many aunts who live around the house). “That’s not my aunt”, (and after a recent death), “That wasn’t my grandmother, I’m not going with the family to visit”. She seems determined to be alone to an outsider, as I see a girl who has had too much loss and abandonment to risk seeming vulnerable or attached again. She lived with her father and one of his ‘madame’s for a year at one point, but he left for Brazil years ago and Nadine has said that he has forgotten her – it’s just a fact. Her actual mother actually died when Nadine was an infant, and a stranger took Nadine in. That woman died on the day of the earthquake when she went to market (they lived near Port-au-Prince). That’s when Nadine was passed to her father, when she was in her early teens. Nadine moved in with Juslaine and helped out a significant amount in the house when her dad left the country, settling in a place where there wasn’t even really “a space” for her. Living here in Bercy, she got pregnant a little over a year ago (with Evans, the father, quickly trying to wipe his hands of responsibility).
She thinks that she is not only alone, but has to live this way. Maybe even because something about her as a person, this is who she is.
And she is not the only one. One of the reasons she knew the girl who died today was because they were friends based on the fact that they understood each other, they saw themselves as being alone in the world. Maybe even surrounded by some extended family, or the family of a half-sibling, but alone in the midst of an overcrowded home. In the midst of an overcrowded country, in fact (Haiti is the size of Rhode Island, yet it holds about 10 million people).
And for her friend, her life ended in a procedure where she was left alone in a hospital, at the end of hope as she did an act that broke even her own heart – but the same culture than condemns the procedure also condemns teenage pregnancy and scorns the pregnant teenager, especially for someone who is alone and ‘cannot really raise the child’. The shame is extremely heavy, despite the fact that children are seen as “the wealth of the poor” in this beautiful country. She felt alone and helpless, and went to get an abortion. And she didn’t survive it, leaving this world alone.
No one stepped up to tell her there was another option, no one reached out to her before the procedure or even before the pregnancy even happened. She did not know that she was not alone, that she was cherished and wonderfully made with care. She was knit together in the womb of a mother that passed away, by a Father that never leaves us. She was a beautiful young woman, and there has never been and there never will be someone else like her in this world again. She was a daughter of a King. She was not meant to carry the weight of her world alone on her shoulders, but she did not know that her precious Bridegroom was ready to carry it for her – no one told her that he had carried her worst already, and laid it down with his own life on the cross. She did not know that he rose again, she never felt victorious and did not feel that she had the right or ability to stand by the ultimate victor. Above all else, she didn’t know that she was loved. I mourn the thought of a girl walking through hospital doors feeling so utterly alone.
Friends, this world needs us. Oh, how this world is hurting. The young women, the baby boomers settling into retirement communities, the infants sitting in the nursery of the maternity wards across the world. Every single individual needs Jesus in the midst of their loneliness, and He does not need us but he WANTS us, and this hurting world is waiting for us to wake up and walk out the door and reach out our hand to stand side by side with someone who thinks that they are alone. He wants us, and He wants to use us in this way.
I look over at Wes and just thank God, with tears welling up, that her mother is here. That that strong heart and stubborn attitude keep going, that she fought a society that said she couldn’t raise a baby at her age and she loves this little doll with her entire heart. I thank God that Nadine’s story is not the same as her friend. And oh, how I am praying with my whole heart for her soul. For her to understand the depths of what I mean when I respond that she is not alone. For when she says back to me, “Yes, we have God as our Father” (the truth that she is used to me proclaiming with a smile in the midst of the fatherless), my soul cries for her to understand what this means, not just recite it. Oh, Lord, how my soul hurts as I watch her fight this world with her own heart filled with more hurt than a seventeen-year-old should be able to hold.
But for now, he has sent me. To love my sister as she adds, “and you’re my mom!”, and I vehemently reply “no!” and we laugh loud enough to stop a fidgeting Wes. To put aside my work when she barges (literally) into my room and give her the attention she craves. To be the one voice in a sea of negativity saying, “No. That is not the truth. You are loved. You are beautiful. You are not alone.”. He has sent me to be the finger constantly in the air, point up as I say what she already knows to expect from me now, “We have a Father, Nadine. And He is GOOD.”
Reflecting on this recent death, hitting so close to home for the girl just like Nadine who did not feel loved, I want to ask what side of the story you are on. Are you feeling alone, at the end, unloved? These truths are for you. Please, please read them and know that they are for your heart and they will refresh your soul with their truth.
Are you on the other side? You ‘get’ it? Please, stand with me. Oh, how I cringe when my schedule is intruded on. How I love my own time and I get tired of playing the “I don’t know if I can trust you” game. But I will keep walking out that door (or…leaving it unlocked for others to come in) to fight against the loneliness in this world. I do not want to hear more stories of girls who do not have someone to let them know that they are a precious gemstone. My soul aches for the loss in a world where too many people feel alone. Please, take someone’s hand.