Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mama Emmanuel

There are many people we have been blessed to meet and learn from in Haiti.  Their lives have challenged us, changed us, inspired us.

In our first years in Haiti, when we lived in a rural village, there were a handful of people that impacted us greatly.

After the earthquake there were stories that moved us, wrecked us, inspired us, destroyed us, redeemed our hope, and healed our hearts.

Those faces and stories stay with us everywhere we go. We carry the lessons we learned from these beautiful souls close in our hearts.

One of those stories is that of "Mama Emmanuel".

The woman pictured here has impacted more lives than she can comprehend. The internet is not a part of her life and words like blogging, facebook, and twitter are not a part of her vernacular.  She has no idea how many people know parts of her story. Trying to explain to her that since the earthquake thousands and thousands of people have heard and read about her just makes her laugh nervously. She may think we are kidding. She is unaware of the lives she has touched.

I was in Beth's office one day looking for a midwifery book when I found an envelope with words people have written about her. As I sat alone in a sunlit room I read two different accounts from medical personnel that came to serve post earthquake. As the gravity of her story hit me for the dozenth time, tears rolled down my face. The words written by people that came to help the wounded heal, but instead found healing themselves, reminded me of the parts of the story I'd forgotten and I want to share them with you tonight.

"You may remember Emmanuel's mother. Two weeks ago, when her son had his last in a series of painful plastic surgeries to reconstruct his face, she stood up in the center of our hospital and sang a chilling acappella Hallelujah, praising God for the gift of her child's life.

Today, she peered down, for the second time, into her family's grave.

She asked us to bring her here. For closure. She did not know what to expect. Would the house be gone? An empty lot, where her life had once been? Or would it be hauntingly unchanged, the moment of her loss frozen in time.

We worried for her. What does a mother do when she encounters such a challenge? Which would leave a more gaping hole in her soul - an empty space where her house and children had once been, or an untouched pile of rubble with the bodies of her babies still trapped within? Would she stand and stare at the base of the rubble? Would she fall on it and wail? Would she start to claw and dig at it? Or would her soul just melt away?

She quietly climbed the untouched rubble pile, peering down into the hole from which three months ago she had plucked her little Emmanuel and beneath which her other children's bodies lay entombed. Then she wandered away silently, over the rubble, searching intently, she later revealed, for a precious memento - a sacred book of hymns that she had carried with her throughout her life. She did not find it.

Nor did she see - or perhaps, she just did not acknowledge the small brown arm of a child that was still visible, pinned under a concrete slab, in the depths of the rubble below her feet.

Tonight, as I left the hospital, she sat with her Emmanuel on a small cot in the corner of the courtyard, staring silently into the distance. I placed my hand on her shoulder in comfort. She stared up at me, with a depth of sorrow in her eyes, despite her ever present smile. I leaned down to hug her from behind and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek. She lifted a hand to hold my cheek to hers for a moment. Such depths of sorrow. Invisible, searing, devastating sorrow. Just below the surface of a smile.

How does she survive?"
(Written by Barbie - a PA from Alaska)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"In the midst of their pain and continuing suffering there was the presence of a love and caring for one another that I had only glimpsed on my first busy trip. (to Haiti post earthquake as a medical volunteer)

This loving touch brought a peace that covered the hospital environment. This could only have been God's Holy Spirit. What affected me the most about my second trip was this woman named Marie Rose who had lost her children and home in the earthquake. She was caring for her broken three year old son, Emmanuel, in the makeshift hospital. Every night her beautiful singing voice led the worship service for all the patients and caregivers in song, followed by Bible readings. I never understood a word of her Creole, but I understood every word of her heart. With all that she had endured, was enduring, I saw her faith enabling her to do all this, shining from her to all who were around her. The example of her faith gave me a new understanding of what we each should aspire to be."

(Written by Cliff a PT from Oregon)

Prenatal visit today

Mama E. is anxiously waiting to deliver. She is temporarily living in the post-partum room at the Heartline Maternity Center.  She and four year old Emmanuel spend their days chatting with the  cooks and teen moms, taking short walks, and waiting on the first contraction.

Every single birth is important to us. We grow to love and know the women we work with as their babies develop inside them. We care deeply about each one. They all matter.

Mama Emmanuel holds a piece of every person's heart that has ever met and interacted with her.

The birth of this baby represents so much more than the average birth.

This is a very special delivery.

Out of darkness, light.

Out of sorrow, joy.

Out of weeping, laughter.

Out of death, life.

Cliff giving Beth a photo of Emmanuel and Marie Rose