Dear Red Twin
I’m 39 tomorrow. You’ll always be 35 I guess. I keep thinking I’ll stumble onto a way where I’ll feel OK about my/our birthday but here we are at no.4 and I’m at a loss again. I don’t sleep, I don’t want to see anyone, I don’t really want the day to happen. Everyone says, it’s still a day to celebrate me, but what I know intellectually I can’t make my heart do. Elliot said he’ll make me a cardboard cut-out of you so I don’t have to do my birthday alone.
But then this morning I was doing my Pray-As-You-Go and it asked me to imagine, if Jesus was sitting in the room right here, what would you say to him, what’s the thing on your heart right now? So,
Me: How is she, Jesus?
Jesus [in my imagining]: She’s fine! Well, she misses you, of course. But I’m looking after her.
Me: I wish I could see her.
Jesus: I know… Do you want to write her a letter?
So, I’m writing you a letter.* I feel like I’ve been storing up four year’s worth of news to tell you and I need to get it out before it’s too much for me to hold. Or some of it anyway. Can’t wait to hear your news as well. It’s probably far more glorious than mine but you won’t care. You’ll want to hear my news because it’s mine and we are each other’s.
Gosh, where to start?
Just after you went to be with Jesus, Anna had her baby. She’s a little girl now, a mini-Anna, sharp as a tack and a complete menace. The other girlies were scared of me for ages. I think they were confused about whether I was you or who I was. That was hard. No one’s fault of course but made me feel a bit like a leper, as if I don’t already feel like I’ve lost a limb. They’re slowly coming around. I feel like that heals a little piece of my heart. They’re their own little world. Mum says it’s just like we were.
Callum is a mini-you in a Davis body (i.e. way better coordination!) People say he looks like me but it’s your face I see. He loves reading the letter from you and listing all the ways he’s like you: a lefty, a sweet tooth, his helping heart, into Maths, a chatterbox. I wish you were here to be his and for him to be yours. He’s still so cuddly.
Elliot still has dimples and a killer smile. And such a way with words! I remember you telling me it’s pretty hard to stuff up your kids but there’s also so much negative feedback from others. Last year at school we were accused of being both overbearing and not involved enough. I feel like you always put me on an even keel and helped me see clearly when I was out of line and when it was someone else. He’s so cool, Stephie. I feel like I’ll burst with pride every time I see him on a stage because it’s like a little window into what he’ll be like in the new creation, all fixed up and glorious. He loves our backyard – the boys have so much freedom and space. I wish you could see our new place. It’s been raining recently and it’s a riot of different greens.
Oh my goodness, Red Twin, Central Asia… There was lots of stuff in the media. I really wanted to talk to you about it, get your take on it. I wonder if you would have been there when it happened, how we would have felt about that, worrying if you were safe.
And – crazy – there’s been a global pandemic! It’s like an episode out of Captain Planet! We all have to wear masks and there are all these rules about touching and how close you can stand to people. There was this virus that jumped from the animal world into the human world – apparently we can expect that to happen more and more because of decreasing biodiversity and human encroachment on wild areas. Natural consequences of human sin I guess. And it spread all around the world because with air travel and that it’s really hard to contain. There were super dire predictions made for Africa, like, people dying in the streets, breakdown of law and order and infrastructure like power and water. We decided to stay instead of evacuating and are pretty glad we did because none of those things happened and those who evacuated have now come back and we’re learning to live in this new world. We’re into the third year of it now. Australia did well for ages because of a hard border (like, we couldn’t go back even if we wanted to!) but we’re up to a fourth wave and this one has knocked Australia around with supply chain issues and low capacity of the medical system. And this one is post-vaccination! There was this incredible effort put into finding a vaccine, mainly to stop people dying, so you get the virus but it’s not as bad. Now there are several so people are all choosy about which one they’ll have. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to get even one here so were pretty chuffed when we could.
I started a PhD, Red Twin! It was so dark when you died and I couldn’t do anything and my brain working at all again seemed so impossible but then as the fog started to clear CMS suggested to me that I would need something constructive to do and it’d be useful as well, like a culmination of lots of what we’d learned here. And do you know what? It’s so much fun! I was worried I couldn’t match it at that academic level but my supervisors are very reassuring and I definitely have things to say! Following in Jessie’s footsteps, though I only intend to have one ‘Dr’ in front of my name! She’s in the US at the moment – she got a Fulbright scholarship. (Of course she did!)
Mum and Dad moved into an apartment so their old place has been sold. Dad was such a champion fixing the place up. Remember how dark and poky it was when we first moved to SA, what was that, 25 years ago? I remember that first night, sleeping next to you, how every passing car would wake us up because we were used to living in the rectory behind the church, far from the road. It looked so fancy when he was done – even Frog Hollow! Anyway, Mum and Dad are loving their new place. I haven’t seen it yet of course, except on Zoom. (Zoom is like skype, but better I guess – there are all these new bits of technology that we all use now because of the pandemic.)
I guess I’ll see it in the next year or two – that’ll be our 10 years up. I’m glad we put a time limit on it, otherwise I would want to keep staying and finding things to do. We don’t know what we would do in Australia. It’s still far enough off that we don’t have any decisions to make yet about where we will live or what work we will do. Ha, funny story, someone here the other day thought I would earn more money than Arthur because of my (expected) PhD – I didn’t have the heart to explain that a woman with a PhD is not always considered an asset in Christian ministry circles! If that’s even what I want to do. I expect it will take us quite some time to find our feet. Last time we were back we realised some of the circles we think of as home now view us with suspicion. That hurt. It still hurts. It’s disorienting too. I have to trust God that he has a place for us in Australia. I always thought you would be there or coming back and forth. The boys want to get a dog, small and cuddly. I said we could call her Minnie. They still remember your Minnie from the hospital.
This morning I did Balance. Arthur’s been doing it with me. We had to turn sideways facing each other to fit in the tai chi. Hilarious Elliot said it looked like some kind of elaborate mating dance. I remember you saying, “Red Twin loves to be strong.” Callum loves all your Red Twin-statements that I tell him about.
I miss you.
*This is an edited version
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.