Today one of the local pastors and his wife were patients. When they arrived, he asked, "How are your wife and kids?" I was a bit surprised that he hadn't heard and probably made him feel bad for asking by my surprised look and terse answer that Amy had died of cancer. But I went on to answer his question, "She's great! Better than those of us still on earth, certainly." If one thinks about it she's never been better!
Today our church had a faena. A faena is a work day and today the job was to carry a load of bricks from the street down into the church property where we are going to build a wall.
Five tons of bricks left on the street. What if someone steals them? Wasn't a problem. Bricks are too much work to steal, I guess.
Scott and Tami Wade, fellow missionaries, helped out. It took 10 of us an hour and a half to carry the bricks.
One of the benefits of starting to see more patients again is my diminishing food bill. I don't charge my patients, but many bring food to show their gratitude. I've gotten chickens, guinea pigs, huge sacks of corn and potatoes and lots of fruit. Once a patient brought some Starbucks coffee! Yesterday, a patient brought a papaya, mandarin oranges and some cheese he had made:
Sunday, Mia got injured while going down a zip line at the home of some other missionaries. Her pain made me think that she could have fractured her navicular bone in the foot, so yesterday we went and got an X-ray and sure enough, there is a little chip broken off of her navicular bone. About fourteen years ago, a medical student, Anna Peek, from the UK, went with me on a couple of village trips. She went on to become an orthopedic surgeon and graciously lets me consult with her about ortho cases that I have here in Peru. I think the last three ortho cases have all been missionaries or their children! We're a clumsy lot, I guess. We agreed that Mia will probably do okay without a cast, but will reevaluate in a week or so. But it looks like track season is over for her as she can't run for 6 weeks.
Blog post approved by Mia.
When I took on the role of SIM Peru director in 2010 many lamented that the number of gross medical stories and pictures plummeted. I can't guarantee the same number or shock value of the photos, but you can expect to see more interesting stuff! We'll start with an easy one: Today, a woman, who has helped several of our missionaries in their ministries, came to get a hemangioma removed from her thumb. When it appeared a couple of months ago she went to a doctor who sent her to a long list of doctors including an orthopedic surgeon, an oncologist and a vascular surgeon who ordered all sorts of tests including an ultrasound and an MRI. She spent the equivalent of days in waiting rooms until she was told they didn't want to remove it because it could bleed a lot. I took one look at it and her fancy studies and said, "Let's take it out." I cleaned her up, but a small sterile glove on her hand and cut the tip off of the thumb and rolled it down her thumb making its own little tournaquet. Bleeding? Did they think she'd bleed to death from her thumb? Just put your other thumb on it. Several people explained to me that this rigamarole was just to make more money ordering expensive but unecessary studies. I hope she doesn't bleed to death, or I'll look pretty silly.
I made a small (1-cm) incision and the benign-appearing hemangioma popped out of the opening and was easily removed.
I've written about Santiago before. We've been meeting for bible study for a couple of years now. We only met once this year before Amy started deteriorating, when we put our meetings on hold. I called him this morning to see when he'd like to meet. "Today! At 1 pm!" Okay. It was good to see him and see how he was doing and after our study in Matthew 1 (I let him pick the material) we were picking when we were going to meet again and he asked, "Can we meet twice a week?" It's fun having people who are hungry to study God's Word! I'm tempted to say, "No," so that he'll continue to look forward to our times together more, but I suspect our schedules won't let us meet twice each week anyway. It could be hard to explain to God someday why I told someone that wanted to study the Bible more what my reason was for not doing it!
As of today, I am the very proud father of four teenagers! Actually, we found the ages 11 and 12 much more difficult than the teen years, which have generally been a breeze. Happy Birthday, Paul!!
Our kids attend a school that requires community service hours to graduate. No, it isn't an alternative school for those kicked out of regular schools! This last week, Ben and 50 other students took a 14-hour bus ride to Umachulco to work in a highland community. One of the first things Ben told me was that he was really thankful for the knife uncle Erik gave him for Christmas a year ago, because it worked well for sheering an alpaca!
Not to be outdone, I went with a trio of Peruvian mothers to the other end of Arequipa to see a spina bifida patient. He is a jovial young man but is paralyzed from the belly button on down. These moms have kind of formed a club to help take care of this patient, which is kind of inspiring to me. I met them through another missionary who has a women's bible study that they attend.
During Amy's memorial service in Omaha, her dear friend, Caroline, shared memories of Amy. She said that after Amy had been married a year, Caroline asked her what she had learned about herself and Amy said, "I realize how selfish I am." If you knew Amy well, you would not come up with 'selfish' if asked to pick 10 adjectives to describe her. I had to follow up with Caroline and ask if she could explain what Amy meant by that. I hoped that Caroline would say something like that after being married to such a selfless guy like myself, Amy realized how selfish she was, but not surprisingly, she had a more plausible explanation: "As I recall, she meant that the day to day of being married revealed how many choices she had been making (in life so far, before marriage) to do as she pleased, to satisfy her preference, in ways which she never realized until someone else’s needs and desires became part of her life on a daily basis. Would she let go of her preference, or insist on her way in details of life? Would she discipline her heart, or allow herself to indulge in (unseen) irritation over choices you might make in dealing with the day to day which were different than her habit? Submission reveals selfishness instantly and thoroughly. I think it revealed more than she expected, and was a greater battle than she had prepared for. It was also clear she was determined to face that challenge and overcome it, by God’s power and her surrender. I remember thinking if she was struggling with selfishness in marriage, then I was terrified!"
That made perfect sense to me as now I can be 'selfish' again. I can decide what we are having for lunch without asking, and can buy anything I want without concern whether or not Amy would agree it was a good use of our finances, or leave my deodorant on the counter. I can see why people who marry at older ages have difficulty with adjusting to living with someone else. I used to think that was kind of a silly excuse, but I had always had a roommate. Amy must have listened to herself about being selfish because she was anything but. She was incredibly easy to live with.
I've been advised by senior missionaries to not get started with ministry too quickly, but to take time to grieve. This morning was a quick foray into ministry as we helped some other missionaries move and I saw patients at the La Merced church during their medical campaign. It was invigorating to see some patients and to work with friends with whom I've colabored for the last 5 years.
So, how are we all doing? I'm very sad (don't worry medical people (or others), I'm not suicidal in the least!) and miss Amy. I resumed swimming this week and it has been good to see old swimming friends at the pool again. I feel uncomfortable telling the ones that haven't heard about Amy that she's gone because they are so shocked. The kids are doing better than I expected and their friends have been rallying around them. Last night Mia went to a quinceañera (a fancy birthday party for a girl turning 15 that is often as elaborate as a wedding, except there isn't a groom) for a friend of a friend. Paul and I stayed home and ran chess club and around 16 kids came.