I talked with Grace this week. Ever so briefly, and ever so gently. She has been on my mind constantly since I first met her a month and a half ago, and she’s been in many of my conversations and a fair amount of the writing I’ve done since then. Sharing a few words with her on the phone, however, was something totally new, and it absolutely made my day.
Never mind that we don’t speak the same language and can’t understand a word of what each other is saying. Or that the amount of time she and I have actually spent together, in person, has been just a few minutes up close and personal, plus another hour – at most – when she was in the audience at one of my presentations in Uganda.
I had planned to be done by now with writing about the trip I took to Uganda this past July. Although many people have told me how much they’ve enjoyed reading about it, and others continue to ask me about the trip, it seemed time to move on in my column to other topics. But I keep finding out about new things that started in Uganda and have stretched well beyond its borders – and beyond the scope of anything I could have imagined while I was there. I continue to be amazed at how quickly and powerfully something can grow and develop, and how many people can become a part of something much bigger than themselves – bigger, in fact, than all of us put together.
Grace’s story is one of those.
Grace is the young mother from northern Uganda whom I’ve written about in several other columns. She was a victim of kidnap and rape at the hands of Joseph Kony’s militants when the LRA attacked and destroyed villages in northern Uganda. She has three young children and, when I met her, had an advanced case of breast cancer. Although her prognosis was grim, she has now had surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy. And although no one at the hospital can believe it or explain it, there is no sign of cancer anywhere else in her body. She has an excellent chance not only of surviving, but of thriving in the new life that is now unfolding in front of her.
Her problems are far from over, however, and there is much more to her story and her history than what I’ve written about in past columns. Violence and abuse, poverty, disease, discrimination, and threats against her and her family – these have been a part of her everyday life. And some of them continued to haunt her even after she arrived in the hospital for treatment.
Although her cancer has been successfully treated, she is severely anemic and has needed several transfusions. She has other physical and medical issues that are not life-threatening, but need attention. She has three young children to take care of, and has decided it would be better for all of them if she stays in Kampala rather than returning to her village in northern Uganda.
And yet, even with everything she’s already been through, and with all the uncertainty of her future, Grace is touching and inspiring the people around her, and others around the world. Including me.
It took three other people on the phone to enable me to exchange a few words with Grace the other day. My friend Tabitha was coordinating the call from here in the States, her daughter was handling it from Grace’s hospital room in Kampala, and Grace’s brother – the only person who was fluent in English as well as Grace’s native language and Tabitha’s – was translating for us all. Yet Grace and I were able to talk to each other directly, and in the few words we spoke to each other, we were able to convey that we were thinking of each other, praying for each other, and were very happy to hear each other’s voices.
The memory of this simple, humble conversation has had a powerful effect on me. I’m guessing and hoping it did on Grace, too. I’ve been smiling about it ever since. And I hope that hearing about it will bring a smile to you as well.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on September 12, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013
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