Friday, August 1, 2014

I'll See You

Darby and Judith
As I left the church to go to the airport last week, my mom hugged me and said “When you see Judith, give her a huge hug for me”.   

In 2011, we met Judith, a woman living with HIV/AIDS. She was part of  Mama Deborah’s group, Love to Help, (a support group / entrepreneurship for women with HIV+). She smiled and laughed and taught us to roll paper beads. To this day, my mom still loves telling the story of Judith.

Because Judith has HIV, I left the gathering place at Faith Lutheran worried. What if in these past three years Judith got sick?  What if she was no longer a part of Love to Help? What if she’d died? 

I started to expect the worst - especially since in 2011, we also met a woman named Denise. We visited her and heard about how her mother didn’t know she had HIV.  

A week later, Denise passed away. She had five children, four of which who also had HIV.

Yesterday, the day finally arrived. We went to Love to Help. While walking into their meeting space, we were greeted by a line of people waiting to shake our hands and hug us.  As I looked to my right, I saw a small woman sitting by some friends.  Trying not to stare, I saw she was shining. You could see her joy was contagious. I knew exactly who she was but I thought running up to her and hugging her was a little extreme, so I just walked by. Not knowing if she remembered me at all, I felt really uncomfortable. Luckily, Doug is the king of reconnecting with people. I told him Judith was here, and he encouraged me to talk with her.  

Still not knowing exactly how to do this, Doug asked Mama Deborah if she could “introduce” us to Judith.  Because of Judith’s excitement for life in general, she jumped up and hugged us as we walked over.  With Serge translating, we explained that we had met before and that my mom remembers their time together.  I’m not sure if she remembered us.  But by the way she had her arm around me, I knew this wasn’t just an ordinary interaction.  God was holding both of us as we were reconnecting.  I tried my hardest to keep from crying, because I think Judith already thought the situation was a little weird.

After that, we sat down and heard the story of Love to Help. A man named Patrick helped translate.  Already overwhelmed with seeing Judith, I was not expecting what happened next.  Patrick shared his story.  His mother passed away in 2011, and he now lives with his grandmother. His mother was Denise - the woman we visited in 2011, a week before her death. His grandmother still doesn't know he has HIV.

All week, I’ve been telling people we meet “See you” instead of goodbye. I know such a meeting may seem unlikely but my experience in 2011 taught me it’s possible. Our God is, after all, one who does the seemingly impossible. 

And if not here, then later. I strongly believe that I will see my Rwandan friends one day in heaven. There, I’ll see Denise, Patrick, and Mama Deborah. I know that I’ll also see Judith. My mom and I will sit down and catch up with her and maybe even roll a few paper beads together.  


  1. God bless you, Darby. And God bless the internet for conveying these stories to us on a hazy, Friday morning in Chicago. Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I read and re-read this story of reunions -- the ones we have in the here and now, and the ones we hope and expect in the hereafter.

    About 30 minutes ago, a business colleague asked me when my son will return from Rwanda. She has been following the experience through my posts on Facebook and through this blog. I was excited to tell her that we'll be meeting you at O'Hare tomorrow evening, and that I can hardly wait to give Isaac a huge, uncomfortably long hug. (Just deal with it, buddy.)

    I look forward to that reunion. So very much.

  2. Darby - What a wonderful story. We visited an orphanage in South Africa in 2007. All of the children also had AIDS, and some of them had cancer too, as if being an orphan with AIDS were not enough. I often wonder what has happened to those beautiful children who were so excited to greet us when we visited. Your story gives me hope.

  3. What a sweet reunion:) I loved what you said at the end-this is NOT the last time you'll see them!!

  4. Yep, I'm crying. So much to say, I'll just wait until I "see you."

    1. I remember your post or comment from last time when you explained to a woman that your group was leaving the next day ( or something like that) and you would not see her again. And she responded with " then I will see you again in Heaven. " That has always stayed with me, and always been powerful for me.
      And Darby, thanks for your words!

  5. Jen B's dad has been forwarding your posts which I am grateful for but I wish I had gone straight to your blog as I would definitely have responded along the way. You said you loved the responses. Your lives will never be the same again & you have touched others along the way also. In fact, we never know how we touch them. Welcome home. So much has changed in the world while you've been gone so everyone was holding their breaths for your safe return. And while you were gone so much has changed in your world so that you will never see it the same way. Bless you, bless those that led you on your mission & bless those that remain behind in a situation that is so very hard to understand. Thank you for your pathway of understanding.

  6. Darby, what a touching post! You had me choked up on this one (I am probably vulnerable because I miss Jennifer). The story of reconnecting with people three years later is amazing, and I love the idea of "see you".
    I am looking forward to seeing everyone later today!