“Go and give Mama some gentle touches,” said Arthur to Callum. “She’s feeling sad.”
Callum came over to me. “I know why you’re sad, Mama,” he said. “It’s Auntie Red Twin.”
Well, it was and it wasn’t.
Actually, I was sad because I’d just received the news that some friends who had evacuated from Tanzania because of COVID-19 had hit a major obstacle to returning. But Callum was right, that was about Auntie Red Twin.
Almost 2 years ago, we moved to a different part of Dar and Elliot started at an international school. I was deep in very raw grief, and trying to find my way in a new community. It was basically our first time being part of an expat community. It was much more foreign to me than life in Tanzania, and I floundered for a while.
Then, God gave.
He gave me three friends, all new to Tanzania, and we went on little outings together. They were thankful for someone who could parse what they saw around them; I was grateful for people who were open to frank conversation. They were fun and secure women and that made friendship easy. We celebrated each other’s birthdays, loved each other’s children, and they walked with me through the ‘firsts’ after Red Twin’s death.
It was my first time in Tanzania to have not just a friend, but a group of friends. It felt like an abundance.
None of them are in Tanzania now. They all evacuated as airports started closing due to COVID-19. And now, for various reasons not related to COVID-19, they might not return, or might only come back for a short time or to pack up their houses.
I feel sad about that.
I feel like God is taking away from me what he gave.
There was this rich, beautiful thing in my life, and it’s gone way too soon.
So far, my experiences of grief after the first year are that it is most powerful in an adjacent kind of way. I don’t cry looking at pictures of Red Twin or seeing video of her, but whenever I think about my friend who is a twin who also has cancer I cry. I love her, and I feel deeply for her family, but that kind of reaction is not pure empathy; my friend is also an access point to my own grief for Red Twin.
I think this is related to the ball in the box theory. And the feeling of losing these friends has pushed that pain button hard. They are friends who became so precious to me so quickly and are now being snatched from me. (One I did not even get to say good bye to in person. None of them were able to be proper goodbyes.)
I needed these friends all the more because there was no Red Twin in my life. And now as I face losing them, there is still no Red Twin.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.