Saturday, December 27, 2014

For Rachel

Tonight I had a plan. Tonight I was going to start working on the last two of my seminary application essays. Tonight my computer was about to die. Tonight I went back to my room from the main house to get my computer charger. That's when my plans changed.

I saw Francis, my brilliant fifth grade neighbor, sitting on our balcony. He and his mom rent a room from my host family. We live in two rooms that are on the second floor of what used to be Mana Sally's house. Her house and bakery were destroyed in Super Typhoon Yolanda, and they decided not to rebuild. So now Ate Judy, Francis, and I live in the two upstairs rooms with a wonderful little balcony that overlooks the street and the yard.

I started talking to Francis, as I normally do when he is sitting on the porch. Ate Judy came outside and joined us. We started talking about fruits and vegetables in the Philippines and in the US. We went into their room to see some camotes (sweet potatoes, but not the orange ones) that Ate Judy had recently bought. Our conversation turned to storms, as normally happens when talking to just about anyone in Leyte. They told me about how they survived Super Typhoon Yolanda last year and compared that to Typhoon Ruby earlier this month. This conversation was not much different than so many I have had with members of my host family, church members, students, teachers, and other people I randomly run into.

I felt anxious to get my charger and go back to working on essays. That was my plan after all. But I stayed. I continued talking to Francis and Judy. I knew the conversation about surviving storms was just as important for them to tell as it was for me to hear. I stayed because I knew it was better for me to be there fully present with my neighbors than for me to try to think of a way to write an analytical essay on climate change and the church.

At some point, Ate Judy left the room to take a phone call, leaving Francis and me sitting on the floor, still talking about storms. Then Francis asked me about my family, particularly about my siblings. This led to an incredibly rich conversation with one of the smartest and sweetest eleven-year-old boys I know about Rachel and cerebral palsy.

I have told this story many times in my life. My older sister experienced brain damage at birth and lives with cerebral palsy. When I lived at home, it was simply a part of my life. Most people in my various communities of Rock Hill, SC, and surrounding areas knew that Rachel was my sister. They knew that Rachel lived in a wheelchair, ate through a feeding tube, and still wore diapers at 25. Since I moved away for college and the various adventures over the past four and a half years, those conversations became fewer and farther between. People didn't know my entire family, and it was easier not to bring it up unless someone asked, which no one did.

I distanced myself from my sister.

This is terrifying to me now. I know that one day I will be responsible for her, for her well-being, for her life, for her medical care, for her finances, yet I am so far away from all of that. I have no idea what normally happens or how to do it.

This has been an issue that God has brought to my attention multiple times over the years at times when I least expect it. This has been an issue that I have mostly ignored.

But tonight, at a time when I am truly beginning to value and invest in my relationships with the children and youth in my life in the Philippines, is when God brought this issue back and just threw it in my face. God used dear Francis, who understood and grasped complicated explanations given in a language other than his native tongue, to bring me back to this issue that I have ignored and pushed away for oh so long. Oh buddy, God, did it work.

Tonight I am on the verge of tears. Real, big tears. Tears that I have not really allowed myself to cry more than once or twice in the four months I've been on this journey. Tonight I think I will let the rains go, let the healing river flow, let justice roll like water; let the day begin when new life enters in and let Your Empire come. Thank you, Francis. Thank you, God. Thank you, Rachel. I love you.

Rachel on her latest adventure, flying to Wisconsin for Christmas
Photo Credit: My Dear Mom, Sue Williams


  1. My tears are flowing also as I read this. I love you and miss you. I will give Rachel some extra hugs and kisses from you!

  2. I do not know what happened to my post, but I did reply. This had me choked up. So sweet Angela. I had similar feelings after seeing her at Christmas this year. I feel like I do not physically show my love for her as much as I could. I do not see her often and life is busy so at times it is outta sight, outta mind. But, I know she knows I love her and I am ready to show her more! xoxoxo