It began on Tuesday, which really felt like Monday to most of Ghana, since Easter Monday is a national holiday and Ghanaians flock to the beaches. So on Tuesday everyone was tired, and cranky, including my kids who had been off the week before, and now were out of bed at 6am and off to school at 7:30 for the first time in 10 days (Easter break).
Anna had been complaining of an ear ache that felt to her more like fire-ant bites, and when Suzanne looked in that ear with our handy ear scope, she saw something unusual and thought bug, but an afternoon trip to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor revealed it to be only an outer ear infection. So no digging in the ear pulling out this wiggling thing like from one of the Star Trek movies.
That evening, Grace begins feeling awful, the “she ate something” thing, so we started her on antibiotics and send her to bed. Next morning she is no better so we continue her meds and keep her home, and about 10am she gets up to answer nature’s call, and collapses. Dad wasn’t quick enough to catch her from smashing her head into the door frame. So it was another trip to another doctor, this time to the hospital where she had been a patient last Thanksgiving with Malaria.
Along the way Grace asks, “Dad, where are we going?”
“To the hospital,” I say.
“Really,” she says, “who’s sick?” OK, so she was really out of it at that point, delirious with fever, feeling the shivers, freezing. I actually turned the heat on in the car, and it was already 90. Two hours later we learn the cause, Food Poisoning, though we’re not sure of the source. Thankfully they tanked her up on IV fluids and shots of fever reducer and more powerful antibiotic, and sent us home. She was not looking forward to another hospital admission.
Fox has been under the weather too, which is unusual for him as he’s usually our most healthy one, but he is battling the same cold that Suzanne and I caught from Anna about three weeks ago. This was our first round of the African Common Cold, known here as the flu. Yuck.
There is something about being so sick so far from home that clarifies the situation here. Though we have received excellent emergency health care here, we are still a long way from critical care. Around our Thanksgiving trip, I was trying the power of positive imaging with Grace when she was feeling so awful from malaria, asking, “if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?” I’m thinking she will say a beach, or a moss lined creek somewhere in the mountains, somewhere peaceful, but she says: “In a really good American hospital.”
As Easter break began, we received news of a car full of junior and seniors from the kids’ school coming back from the beach when their driver lost control of the vehicle, resulting in several of them being airlifted to London. One is still in a coma. This serves as a reminder that Ghana is a bad place to be when you need critical care, especially in the outlying areas. In the States they talk about the 90 minute critical care window, where in a car crash, you have 90 minutes before things get really critical. In a city where to get police response you usually have to go pick them up at the station, an ambulance is almost unheard of. I have visions of people having to flag down a taxi or trotro, begging with them (and most likely bargaining) to get a ride to the nearest hospital. It could be hours away, with no emergency care along the way.
News also reached us of the death of Dick Ranes, and our hearts are broken for Deanna and her family. Add this to the list of things that make us feel very far away. I remember talking to Dick because he was the one that always answered the phone. This was when Deanna was my Lay Leader, and sometimes I needed to run something by her. Dick would pick-up, and we’d talk about five minutes, maybe about woodworking, I don’t know, and then he’d say, “So did you want to talk to ole what’s her name?” He was a good Catholic boy, whom Deanna said would never leave the church, meaning join the church and become a United Methodist. At first he came to Foundation biannually, when Deanna was preaching (though I’m sure he had heard the sermon many times) then quarterly, and then monthly, and over the last year or so of my pastorate there, most Sundays. Sometimes he would come alone, and it was one of those Sundays when he spoke to me about joining the church. I think it was in the months leading up to Mother’s Day, but he didn’t want Deanna to know, it would be his surprise. It was. There we were at the end of the service, I think, and Deanna was wearing the beautiful corsage that Dick always remembered to get her for Mother’s Day, and I said to him, “So are we going to do this thing?” or something profound like that. “You bet,” he said, and I invited them forward and really flubbed the whole joining thing, saying this was Dick’s gift to Deanna, and she saved the day by telling me, “I never wanted Dick to join a church because I wanted him to, I wanted him to join because he wanted to.”
I don’t know the events that lead up to Dick taking his own life, I wish, like I’m sure so many others do, that we could have been there for him. I remember visiting him in the hospital in my early years at Foundation, when he would be “running a quart low,” as he would say. I guess it was his blood pressure; all I knew is that he said he needed to be topped off. Dick always had the good manners to check in when I already had someone from the church in the hospital so I could combine the trips!
I would have liked to see him one more time, or hear him say, “Do you want to talk to ole what’s her name?” or see some of the amazing trains he built in that workshop, but I know it won’t happen. I know that even being so far away, my task is clear.
Accept what happened.
And to leave it to God and Dick as to why he did it.
And pray for those left behind.