New Blog!

If you've enjoyed reading about my experiences in Tanzania here, check out the new blog I've started on Wordpress as of November, 2017. It's called "Back to Tanzania" and you can read it here. All new adventures in Tanzania from an older, wiser, more experienced expat.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Friends Among Friends

Living away from home for months at a  time has made me value some things at home that I didn't before. An unexpected one of these things is funerals. A few years ago, I would avoid funerals if at all socially possible. I didn't like to feel sad. My barometer was whether the family of the deceased would notice if I attended or I didn't. Only occasionally would the deceased be a friend of mine. Usually it was an older relative of a friend or an older coworker.

A few weeks after I came home this time, a lovely woman from my small church passed away. I missed my last chance to see her because I was visiting friends in Arizona on the day of the last church service she attended. I talked with her husband on the phone for over an hour. He talked about how beautiful she was, and what a good mother she had been. He told me that her memorial service would happen a few hours after I planned to fly back to Tanzania. I felt such regret. I wanted badly to attend, to be part of the group that would gather around him and offer comfort. The day before the service, I changed my travel plans, for other reasons. I was so happy to attend the memorial service. My old barometer question didn't even occur to me.

A few days ago a former coworker passed away after two years with terminal cancer. His wife was also my coworker. Both were a pleasure to work with. Competent and serious about doing a good job, and always respectful of those with whom they worked. And just fun and nice and down-to-earth people that you enjoy being around. When I originally got the news that he was ill, I got it by email in Tanzania. I felt empty to receive this news while so far from home. Last night I had the gift of attending his memorial service. There must have been more than 200 people there. Again, my old barometer question didn't occur to me. I wanted to see his wife and hug her and say I'm sorry. I wanted to sit surrounded by my former coworkers as we all honored the one we'd lost. During the service, his brother said that his favorite kind of weather had been summer thunderstorms and that, just as he passed away, a wild thunderstorm had erupted. I drove home over a mountain pass  just before sunset . Clouds boiled in the sky, streaks of virga reaching down. The clouds glowed yellow, then orange, then red as the sky darkened. As I topped the summit of the pass, the bright full moon appeared in a an opening. Bright, but blurred by wisps of wild clouds. You know it's there, but it's beyond your reach. I said, "Chip, is that you?" and imagined him bidding all 200+ friends good-bye.

Sometimes you miss stuff when you leave your home. I'm happy that I got to be part of these events here in my home.


  1. Barbara - That was truly prose from the heart, topped off with a lovely picture that captured the moment. I'm glad you got to share in these events. I also hope you had a safe trip back and we look forward to more of your adventures in Tanzania.

  2. I'm glad you made it to Chip's memorial service. A wonderful man, indeed. I've lost 3 co-workers from my past... including Chip and its really been an eye-opener to spend each day appreciating our friendships.