It's been a tumultous few weeks. Two weeks ago I found out one of my dearest friends, Lee Stover, had passed away in his sleep. Lee was, literally, the first person I met when we pulled in to the Whitworth parking lot. We shared a lot of amazing experiences, talked through a lot of crisises and celebrated a lot of victories together over the last three and a half years. He was the first person I talked to from Bolivia (sorry, Mom), and the six months of emails we shared since I arrived is another reason to be thankful that I'm here.
It was really hard to get the news and know I couldn't be with my friends and mentors who had known and loved Lee too, but I am so grateful for the emails and messages I received that have kept me part of the community during all this. I sent an email to a few of the people that Lee and I were both close to sharing some of the things he had written to me since I got here and that had been a huge consolation as I was making sense of his death. It was read at his memorial service and shared in some of the announcements to the Whitworth community and it brought me a lot of peace to be able to participate in the community's celebration of Lee's life. Like the other hundreds of people that knew Lee, I miss him. But God has been generously passing along bits of wisdom and comfort and I feel like the tree in Jeremiah 17 (the green one, not the one dried out in the wasteland. I'm not writing it here for you because I like the idea that maybe you'll be curious enough to crack open your own bibles. Or read online at www.usccb.org/nab). God's grace and peace, rather than being overshadowed, are even sweeter in our most painful moments. Remember that.
In the meantime, the girls have not let me forget for a moment that, no matter what may come, the world is full of light and life and work to be done. In addition to the normal runny-nose-wiping, "I don't care what she did, don't hit anyone ever," last minute algebra homework, and giant good-night hugs routine, Hermana MariaLuz, the school principal, gave me a short list of dates that she would like me or the girls to dance for, so I've been hunting down music to start preparing for that.
Don Bosco's remains visited, of all places, Itocta last Saturday. It was probably the most exciting hour that Itocta has ever seen and was absolutely worth the months of planning beforehand. Not to mention every Salesian's dream. Thirteen schools crammed in to Colegio Laura Vicunia's field to sing and dance and welcome Don Bosco. All the students got a chance to file past after the Celebration of The Word. I hearded around our six youngest girls, dressed as angels with cardboard wings about three times their size. Later that afternoon Johanna and I headed to the Cathedral in the city with the sisters from our town and neighboring Primero de Mayo and Pucarita, where the whole Salesian family was gathering for mass with Don Bosco's urn present. The sisters had been invited to sing for the event so we even had garunteed pews. Not a bad deal. It was amazing, especially coming from a country where the Salesians aren't nearly as present, to see how moved people from the community were to be next to the body of the founder of the Salesians. All the schools, daycares, tech schools, catechesis programs, feeding programs, parishes, etc. that sustain and support the children and families in our communities started with the humble ministry of one man hundreds of years ago. It was moving to see his remains and the huge, spirit-filled family he inspired under one roof celebrating the Eucharist together.
Finally, one of the sponsors arrived from the US on Monday and I've been acting as translator this week, which is a great opportunity to test my Spanish and also have a chance to see a few more faces of the projects going on around the community. It's also encouraging to see people from as far away as the US involved in the girls' lives.
So life is up and down and all around. And it's only/already month 7. Of how many...I have no idea.