In May of 2009, I was still finding my way in Africa. I had only been in Rwanda a little over a month, not sure about anything, anyone, life in general. I met a woman from the UK, Suzanne, who introduced me to David Pluth, a photographer in Rwanda shooting a tourism video for the government tourism board.
Here is the rest of the story....
Since posting this story over three years ago, it has remained one of my most often read blogs.
The end of the story began today.
David's widow, Patricia, a Canadian by birth and now a Swiss resident, lives near Zurich. I met her shortly after David's death. I remember thinking how incredibly strong she was. How do you deal with the death of a spouse, in a foreign country, a country not cooperating with arrangements for the release of his body and still maintain composure? Perhaps she was in shock, she was the ER doctor handling a triage situation and she did what she needed to do to bring David home.
Over the years I have seen her from time to time in Rwanda while she tirelessly and tenaciously made sure her husband's work was finished and delivered to the Tourism Board. Along the way, the path was never made easy for her, but she finished it.
When I learned we would be spending time in Switzerland this summer with Adrien she was the first person I reached out to. It had been quite a long time since we had seen each other but we have never been far away thanks to Facebook. Patricia has become a huge fan of Team Rwanda and an ever present fountain of support for myself and Jock.
Today she drove 2 1/2 hours from Zurich to St. Moritz with her three gorgeous huskies, to reconnect. It was a perfect day. It was the best weather I have seen the entire time I have been in the country. We walked the dogs up the valley to Spinas, this gorgeous mountain lodge. We had a gourmet lunch, a bottle of wine and splurged on the most delectable Affogato to ever pass my lips.
Personally, it was the day I most needed a friend. Patricia understands Rwanda and the craziness of a life lived there. She had spent time in the 80's in Sudan and was evacuated during the US/Libyan crisis. Today I had to do my own triage of life events. I handled what needed to be handled, made changes, arrangements and emailed new schedules. I did it all like I saw her do the first time I met her. Today I learned from Pat, every day in the last three years she has been scared, scared of what needed to be done, how to do it, how to move forward. I never knew. My experience today does not even compare to the loss of a spouse. But I guess we are very similar in that respect. I am the ER doctor in the triage ward of Team Rwanda, the Queen Fierce Mama Bear with Ninja gear. I am the glue that holds things together as my friend Johnny said today. But for a moment today, my armor chinked and Patricia was there to cheer me forward and at the same time simply honoring the space in which I needed to pound out the chink.
Friendships evolve from a myriad of paths. For a few days I met a fascinating man....
....and several days later I met his widow.