Saturday, September 24, 2022

It has been a week since sweet 10 year old Grace breathed her last and inhaled the Glory of Heaven.  I've found myself wondering here and there what her first moments were like...her legs that could no longer hold her up had instant ability to run and the struggle to breathe was instantly met with what must have been the most amazing breath.  Was she surprised by the sudden strength that surged through her new body or was it the last thing on her mind as her eyes lifted up and felt the physical touch of Jesus and their eyes met for the first time face to face.  Did her soul inhale in wonder or was it an exhale of relief?   Relief from the physical suffering that had so defined the last several years of her life.   Death often brings questions and walking with a girl so young only seemed to stir up wonders in my own heart.    

My first memory of sweet Grace was simple.  There were hundreds waiting for care at a medical outreach deep in the village and this young girl sat alone on a cement step waiting to be called for care.  She caught the attention of another nurse and I.  She was notably swollen and just as
equally quiet.  And yet.. even in her quietness, there was a notable resolve.  No one accompanied her.  No one sat next to her to wait to be seen.  She had simply come because she knew she needed help.

She was far more patient than me.  

Let's just face it... after an hour of waiting, my leg would have been dancing... some extra blood would have crept into my face and my eyes would have been a bit tinged with annoyance... and by hour 5 or 6.... I'd be embarrassed by what I would anticipate my response to be.  

And yet Grace waited.  Along with so many others who simply wanted and needed care.  

Once Grace was seen and examined by a provider, it was organized for her to be admitted to a hospital about 20 minutes away down a dusty, bumpy road.   Her momma came and through the bumps and dust, another team member and I engaged with this little girl and her momma.    Simple words.  Simple smiles.  Simple Hope.  

Several days later Grace was discharged from the hospital.  A boda boda (motorcycle) dropped Grace off with her momma at the outreach location and it was more clear than anything that Grace was far more sick than when she was admitted.  Instead of walking to the examination room, Grace had to be carried and before we knew it, her condition was deteriorating before our very eyes.  An ambulance was organized and she was driven with her momma to the main referral hospital in Kampala.  

It's not a place I would want to send anyone.  

And yet, it was one of the only places in Uganda that has working dialysis machines.  

And that is what Grace needed.  And so we trusted and we sent her and we prayed.  

And Grace, with her momma at her side, stayed at Mulago Referral hospital for weeks.  

Her Creatine level was nearly 13.   Normal Creatine Levels are 0.3-1.3 mg/dl.  Creatine measures the health (or lack of) of the kidney.   At 13, it was a miracle she was alive.  

She received Dialysis regularly.   

And her condition declined.  

And so after discussions and prayers, the decision was made to shift the focus of care.  

On a Saturday, Grace was discharged from the referral hospital and after a five plus hour ambulance ride with lights and sirens, we made it to Joy Hospice.  

The room was simple... and yet so welcoming.  Grace and her momma (and her baby brother Ivan) had a large room to themselves.  Two beds.  Mosquito Nets.  Nurses that were attentive to Grace and her momma.  

And as simple and welcoming as her room was, there was NOTHING simple and/or welcoming about the present circumstances.   Grace had been the victim of a crime.  Someone had given her and her younger sibling poisoned porridge.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Poisoned porridge.   Who gives a perpetually hungry child POISONED porridge?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Pure evil.  Pure something.  

And Pure opportunity to love this child as FULLY as possible.  

Her momma stayed at her side.   And her dad, historically out of the picture, was present for the last near 48 hours of his daughter's life.  And her grandma came dressed in her best outfit and sat quietly, yet present.  Grace was surrounded in her suffering.  She was not alone horizontally and neither was she alone Vertically.  

Every 30-60 minutes, increasing dosages of morphine would be drawn up in a syringe and carefully given to Grace.  She was in pain and her breathing was labored.  Initially, she would swallow and yet as her body weakened, the concentration of the morphine was changed and drops were carefully placed in her mouth knowing that her body would absorb.  

I shared the bed with Grace.  Her momma was hesitant to be that close.  I would rub her back and would find myself whispering into her ear....letting her know that it was ok to go.  I would tell her Jesus was with her.  I would let her know that she was safe and that she had fought hard.   Boy, had she fought hard.  

Death is private and to be honest, it is quite vulnerable.  Even as I type away, I am finding myself cherishing both the hard and the good, I am hesitant to share much more.... even tempted to withdraw some of my words.  

And yet, I will let the words remain.  Through the vulnerability of her death, I... no... WE get to see the beauty of her life and as biased as I might be... I see how Jesus truly cared for her... even in the struggle of active dying.

I see a team back in the States that waited patiently to come to Uganda to offer their skills, love, and care.  They waited long and by the time they reached, the make-up of their team looked different... and yet their timing and the makeup of the team could not have been more ordained by God.   Their team was not just them, but joined alongside by a team of Ugandan medical providers.  Together, they loved and poured into hundreds of lives.  

Grace arrived at the outreach at the time ordained for her.  That timing allowed her to be connected and to receive medical care.  She knew the kindness of touch and the kindness of eyes that let her know that SHE mattered.  She was prayed over.  The love of Jesus was whispered in her ear and boldly shared over and over.  

Grace had time with her momma.  Time to be loved on and even time where her body was better than it had been in.... years.  

Yes, her body deteriorated.... but I would venture to say that Grace left this world knowing love in a deeper way.  I believe that her face erupted in more smiles in those weeks than they had in a long time.  Her tummy was more full than it had been.  She had clean water.  Clean sheets.  A momma at her side.  The list goes on and on... 

And I suspect that she knew. 

Deep down in the privacy of her heart. 

That she mattered.  

That she really, really mattered.  

And so even as her body crumbled and swelled and pain filled her every breath.... 

Grace was not healed how I wanted her to be... or how anyone wanted her to be.   She left this world and walked right into the arms of her Jesus knowing what she could not have known had she not walked the previous steps in the journey.

And I believe that no matter how I or anyone feels about it, the truth is that Grace was Healed.  

More and more I believe that true Healing comes by walking through the fire.   And healing so often looks so different than what we want or what we envision.  

And what an honor it was to walk with this precious, spicy young girl and her momma.

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