Angie’s Reflection After Visiting Zimbabwe & India

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Updates | 11 Comments

I’m sitting in my room, which feels painfully quiet right now.  Kelli, John, and I just returned from a 3 week trip to Zimbabwe and India.  There were very few moments during that time that we were not surrounded by dozens and dozens of people, mostly small children, which was actually quite comforting, healing, and hopeful to my heart and soul.  For the first time in over a year, I wasn’t disappointed to wake up when morning came and actually felt somewhat thankful to be alive for the day and see what would come of it.

I cried and laughed more in those 3 weeks than I had in a long time, but those tears and moments of laughter felt different then they used to…they both felt much deeper, reaching levels I didn’t really know existed in me.  Maybe its because I have known love unto death.  Love that continues beyond death.  Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced moments of joy with my love, knowing that our moments together on earth could be very few.  Maybe my capacity to feel has increased with the suffering and love we experienced.

The tears came with a deeper understanding of suffering, pain, and loss.  The depth of pain still continues to be so great that I often don’t let myself feel it.  There are moments I will, but mostly we just co-exist.  I know it’s there.  It seems to know I’m here, maybe if we don’t acknowledge the other’s existence then the pain can be kept at bay, at least for a moment until I’m ready.  Therefore, my entering into it, I would say has been somewhat slow.  This is a luxury.  I have been able to go at my own pace, enter in when I can, or choose not to if it’s too painful.  During this trip, I met women, widows whose lives did not afford them this same luxury.  There is a level of survival in daily living and providing for children, that does not afford time to grieve the depth of loss.  I would never have wished what happened to us on anyone or wished it had been someone else, other than wishing it had been me instead of Will, but I have wondered why it happened.  Is there a reason or did it just happen?  I now also wonder why I get to have the luxury of living in a place where I have time and space to grieve, where stigmas of being a widow don’t really exist, especially a childless widow.  I feel a deep, painful void everyday that Will is no longer here, that our lives together are over, that I lost both my baby and my husband by the age of 32 and instead of being a part of our little family…I am all that’s left.  What if that was my story in a society where now I am viewed as worth less in the world because I don’t have children or a husband.  Why do I get to have this luxury, when so many women do not?  I sit with this now.

This time of grieving was also met with much joy.  During these 3 weeks, I experienced more genuine joy than I had in a long time.  My cheeks twitched from laughing and smiling so much.  Those moments didn’t make me forget Will, or take away the pain.  I wanted him to be there to laugh, sing, and dance with us.  I wanted to see him loving and being loved by all of the kids and my new friends.   I wanted him to be there with Kelli, John, and me.  It was a really beautiful time and it was painful not getting to share it with him.

I am almost certain that I would not be alone in those feelings.  These kids didn’t get to go home from a week of camp and tell their parents about it, share pictures or stories or crafts with them.  Many times I thought that I didn’t want to come back home because I didn’t have Will to come home to.  He didn’t get to be there, and he doesn’t get to be here now to welcome me home, look at my pictures or hear my stories.  He doesn’t get to laugh or cry with me or fall in love with all the people I fell in love with, the incredible people that I spent those 3 weeks with.  Even with this deep void at every turn, my heart still felt real joy.  I don’t know how that works.

There is a poem by Mary Oliver that I lived in everyday…

“We shake with joy, we shake with grief.

What a time they have,

these two housed as they are in the same body.”

My heart was full of grief and joy the entire time.  Some of those moments were…

  • when we took some of the older kids from the homes to Victoria Falls, seeing them love and take care of each other so well over those 4 days…
  • when I heard their screams of joy as we walked up to the Falls for the first time…
  • listening to two of the older girls, Grace and Seru, sing to Kelli, John and I after dinner one night…
  • when I taught infant/pediatric massages classes in both Zim and India for special needs children and children who’ve experienced trauma, doing what I had worked for and hoped to do for 10 years…
  • when I saw them bonding with their babies, enjoying the massage, laughing together…
  • seeing a little girl massage her baby doll and a man cuddling with his…
  • when I taught a man in India how to massage his wife who was recovering from a stroke…
  • playing for about 3 hours with a 24 ft parachute with 10 other people all in our 20s and 30s, laughing and talking and playing games…
  • morning runs and stretches with the kids…
  • tea time with my dear friend Lisa…
  • organizing games with Lisa, Wellington, and Professor…
  • lots and lots of games in Zim and India…
  • spontaneous dance parties…
  • hearing children sing and laugh…
  • hearing people’s stories of pain, hardship, and hope…
  • going on a sunset boat ride with our team…
  • hearing my brother preach to a room full of people who were soaking in his every word…
  • seeing him brainstorm with others on how to help the children with their future…
  • seeing my sister teach card making to give the students a way to make money for college…
  • wonderful conversations with our team and the most amazing, loving, strong, hopeful people at Hands of Hope and Happy Home…
  • kids pray over us in a language that we didn’t understand…
  • living with these kids in both countries with such incredible talent, beautiful voices, amazing dance moves, creative art skills, and the warmest, most loving and caring hearts…
  • young guys taking time out of their schedules before heading back to school to help us run the camp…
  • watching them love and care for and have fun with these kids who loved them so much…
  • seeing kids’ faces light up with pure joy when someone they loved dearly walked into the room…
  • getting to share this with my sister and brother, the many tears, laughs, dances, games, the community and love.

There were times I saw some kids laugh and scream with utter joy, while other’s sat to the side seemingly disconnected from what was happening.  Did the fun and joy seem to mock how they felt, how they experienced the world?  If so, I get that.  In the last year there have been many days when the sun was shining, birds were singing, and people were laughing, I would think, “Do they know what has happened?  Do they know that William died?  He died.  He suffered and died.  How can the sun shine?  How can birds sing?  How can people laugh?”  It felt as though the world mocked me.  Is that how some of these kids felt?  I don’t know.  I just know that some weren’t laughing and singing… maybe that’s how they experience the world.

We spent one afternoon at the burial site of young William, who was a part of one of the homes.  He was loved dearly by my brother and all that met him.  It was heart-breaking.  I held his sister, Winnie as she cried over such great loss and she held me as I cried. We continued to hold each other as the pastor spoke of little William’s life and the loss of my William, as this large family in Zimbabwe had walked so closely with us during Will’s illness.  All of us there, who had shared in much laughter, now crying over these losses.  We grieved together.

I don’t know what I was hoping for in going on this trip.  I was looking forward to going with my brother and sister and meeting John’s second family.  Maybe I was hoping for some answers to some of my questions about life and faith.  I don’t know that any of them were answered.  I think I was looking for more balance in grief / suffering and joy in the world…I think that happened. I hoped to use some of my skills to help, serve, and love others.

I think what I really walked away with is that we’re all just trying.  No matter where you live, what you believe, what your life circumstances are, I think a common theme is that people are trying with what they have.  Maybe it’s trying to survive, trying to exist in this world that has dealt a rough hand.  Maybe it’s trying to make sense of life, or medicate to not feel the pains of it.  The people that we spent time with, even with their own hardships, were trying to use the life they have to love and care for others…for the widows and orphans in their communities, people who have lost everything, who need love and family, children who need food and an education, who are unwanted, who have special needs – mental and physical, communities who have experienced great loss.  In Zimbabwe and India, the outpouring of love was overwhelming…from adults to children.  Adults giving up comforts and security to love.  Older kids giving their time to love and take care of younger kids and those with special needs.  The level of patience and love in everyone I met was incredibly beautiful.

Truly loving takes courage because we are going to get hurt.  There is no way around it.  People hurt each other.  People die and leave others behind.  Loving is costly and risky.

There were many times that I hurt William.  One time specifically, I physically hurt him by moving a pillow behind his back too quickly.  It caused him excruciating pain, to the point that I thought he might pass out.  I think about and feel crushed over that moment often and the others like it.  I made mistakes that hurt him, but the alternative would have been for me to not be there because I was never going to do it perfectly.  I know he would have chosen for me to be present and to try, knowing that at times I would hurt him, rather than me being absent.  I saw that in the people that I met… they are all people who are trying, people who are very present.  They are probably going to mess up at times, hurt each other, people will die and leave those they love behind, but people are loving with all they have, while they have it…what more can we do.

I am so thankful that I got to share this time with my brother and sister.  I am thankful to have come away with new friends, new family, people who I love dearly, who I have thought about every day since we met.  People who are now a part of my heart.  My heart will undoubtedly continue to break in life if I continue to hold people in it.  Loving is going to hurt.  It already has, but choosing to be absent or to not love does not feel like an option.   I am thankful to have witnessed many people loving so deeply, in such costly and risky ways.  That is what gives me hope with each day that I wake up in this world.

There is a quote from a show Will used to watch, Merlin,

“No young man, no matter how great, can know his destiny. He cannot glimpse his part in the great story that is about to unfold. Like everyone, he must live and learn.”

I think about that now as I think about Will’s life, the lives of all the kids and all the men and women that I met, as I think about my own life.  We don’t get to choose our circumstances.  We can’t know how our lives will turn out or what we will face…we just get the life we get.  Will had a hard life, but what he choose to do with it was to write, to work, to add beauty and honesty to the world, to love deeply, to live with intentionality.  He didn’t have to be talented or make money, or be anything other than who he was.  I hope he knew that…I hope we all know that about ourselves.  I don’t know if that really took hold in with him until he was sick, when he saw and felt a world of love come around him, but I do believe he died knowing it.  Will being Will was what made him so beautiful.  He chose to live the best he could with what he had and he learned, changed and grew as he lived, even to his final days.

I see that in the people I spent these 3 weeks, they are adding love and beauty to the world and living with intentionality.  I hope that for my own life.  I hope that for all of us.

To my new friends and family at Hands of Hope – Farayi, Joyce, Gari, Virginia, Jephat, Kudzi, James, Primrose and at Happy Home -Irene, Roshan, and Rose, to all the kids we spent time with in Zimbabwe and India, to David, Wellington, Blessed, Keith, and Professor, to Alice and Lucy, to our team – Jon, Allison, and Lisa, to John and Kelli, to everyone who helped bring us all together… Thank you for the deep love in each of your hearts.  Thank you for your work in making this world a place that loves and gives hope.  You are all in my heart.  You gave me a reason and a desire to wake up each morning, to be a part of something larger than myself.


  1. Beth
    October 10, 2014

    Angie, I still come here periodically. Checking in, wanting to see if you have written. So that I will keep praying for you and know how to pray for you.

    As I pray for you, I see you like I see a World War II soldier. You’ve come through a war that few will know. It required a level of bravery and sacrifice that few also know. And you faced a destructive evil few know. But this WWII generation…. they destroyed an axis of evil against God’s precious, chosen people whose agenda was degradation and destruction. Its because of these brave men and women, who went bravely into that dark night, that an evil so great was dealt its final blow… and history was changed.

    You can’t make sense of that kind of evil; but somehow the freedom fighters in the midst of it show me the face of Jesus.

    I am believing there is a great axis of evil that will somehow, one day, in the end be dealt a final blow because of you. Those soldiers probably couldn’t know how their actions impacted the destruction of the evil they fought in the midst of the battle. But today we know.

    I am praying for you with a deep honor and respect for you. You have bravely fought. There is hope coming, and there is freedom coming. Life will arise from this dust and the ashes. We’re all pulling for you. We’re believing that redemption is coming when the night seems dark. Thank you for inspiring us with hope. And for showing us all the beautiful, beautiful face of Jesus who loves well, and you, precious daughter, look so much like Him to all of us privileged to come by here. Blessings and prayers- and Hope :)

  2. Christi
    August 29, 2014

    Well said. Thank you

  3. Treva
    August 28, 2014

    Thank you for sharing that.
    Every single bit of it.

  4. Carol
    August 28, 2014

    I have really enjoyed this post. You are definitely not “worth less”! We all have different paths and no one is right. It was great that you got to share your massage skills and sounds like the people you met got some joy out of that. I’m hoping your trip inspires you and pushes you forward. X

  5. Dan
    August 28, 2014

    What an amazing tribute to your loved one Will, more than that, what anbhonest portrayal of your journey through pain/joy/realizations/spiritual awakenings…. The reality is that we are all connected by this human experience that is never easy and always turmultous but adjoined simultaneously in love and joy, much
    Like Jesus who loves us in all of our different masquerades and failures and successes and whatever
    I loved your words they expressed your heart.

  6. matt
    August 28, 2014

    there were words in there that i just have to sit back and take in. i am so glad you had this experience and willing to share with us.

  7. b
    August 28, 2014

    Angie, what a precious visit to Zim/India, and what a precious post. I’m thrilled that you had moments of thankfulness for being alive, and moments of having something to look forward to. Your life is going to continue to touch so many people, and so many people are going to fall in love with you, like your new friends at Hands of Hope and Happy Home. Thank you for having the courage to go, see, and feel for those three weeks. We’ll continue to pray as God gives you glimmers each new day of how much He loves you, and all the ways people will be blessed by getting to know you. I/we love you so much.

  8. Eve Norman
    August 28, 2014

    Angie, God puts us in places for a reason, Will is ready for you to make peace with

    in you. He knows how loved he was just like you know how loved you are. You

    have a big heart and God has something in mind for you and taking this step was

    one of them. This story made me cry and realize things I need to deal with as well.

    Thank you,


  9. David
    August 27, 2014

    That’s an amazing post i felt touched and it so great to have had an opportunity to meet you and get to know you more. Thanks for sharing time and life with us i am humbled by your strength and love you where amazing and will always be.

  10. John
    August 27, 2014

    Angie, absolutely incredible. So grateful for you sharing your heart, reflections, and insights into life’s journey and this journey in particular. I’m so thankful for your moments of laughter and all the smiles. Just as you brought so many smiles to all the boys and girls as well. I am incredibly grateful and thankful to have been able to share many of these experiences with you and so truly hope that we will be able to again. I love you.

  11. GoTeamGray
    August 27, 2014

    Angie, welcome back. Thank you, as always, for sharing your deep insight and your journey through extreme joy and grief. We love your authenticity, and we love you dearly!


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