by Laura Robinson –
I am sitting at my desk listening to the rain as it pounds against the roof; every once in a while there is a fierce clap of thunder as the long awaited storm draws near; a flash of lightning fills the sky and the building seems to shudder against the cold. My thoughts are drawn to my own personal storm and I wonder—when my cloud finally clears—how much will I have changed. I haven’t had much experience with death. I have never lost anyone extremely close to me, never anyone I really knew and loved.
I suppose it was naive of me to think that I could escape the effects of AIDS in an area of the world where 73% of the AIDS population resides. I guess I thought the only time I would come in contact with it would be through my work. But everything changes when it is your family that is affected. You see, I am losing my African “uncle” (the brother of my African “father”). This man has been like a big brother to me. I have spent a lot of time with him and his family. Whenever I go to visit him, we go out and have chicken or goat’s head down at the nearby town. We sit and laugh and share, he is always looking out for me. A few months ago, he fell ill. We thought it was a case of viral malaria, but after treatment he wasn’t getting well. He lost so much weight that the next time I saw him it took all my strength to hold back the tears that threatened to betray me.
And so, the past three months have seen him in and out of the hospital, his health varying dramatically as each day goes by. One day he is coherent and laughing, the next his face is blank and gaunt. I quickly came to realize the true cause of his health problems. I know the symptoms; I know the reality. He is dying of AIDS, though he won’t admit it. You see, in Africa most people don’t admit their status, often, they don’t even know their status; which is why this disease is killing off a million people a year here.
You never imagine it can happen to someone you know and love, and that is why it does, because AIDS doesn’t discriminate. It is a real and ominous threat. An even more painful realization came just after the first one—if my uncle is dying, then so is his wife and six-month-old daughter. My heart broke at the thought of this entire family, my family, being swept away by this virus. Then a new revelation struck: there are thousands upon thousands suffering these same pains, for this is not an isolated situation, it is one of many.
I cried and I prayed. “Lord, what am I supposed to learn from this? What am I supposed to do?” For weeks I have been wandering around in haze of emotion. Torn apart by these experiences, questioning why we have to suffer so, why the pains of death and separation, why the doubts and worries, why do we have to feel lost and frustrated.
On Easter Sunday I finally understood. I have always known the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. But this Sunday was different, this Sunday I wept. I realized I had experienced the death of a loved One, the One that I now realize I have come to love more than anything else. I wept because I finally grasped the magnitude of Christ’s pain, and even greater still the enormity of his love. He suffered more than I ever have or ever will and he was innocent. At any moment he could have ended the pain, he could have cried out and God would have lifted the burden from him, but he didn’t. Here I am moping around, lost because I feel hurt, and there he was in agony on that cross so that I might live life abundantly.
I may not understand why my uncle is dying, but I know that last month he came to know my Jesus as his personal Savior, and though his body may not be with me much longer, I will see him again. I will meet him on that glorious day that I am reunited with my Lord.