Today was Alfredo's funeral. I didn't attend. In some strange twist of fate, today was also my going-away party, hosted by colleagues from the Primary Health Care Institute in Tanzania.
I spent the better of today in the same state I've spent the better of most days since Alfredo died. I was angry. I wanted to throw things and - for better or worse - I was snapping at people. A bigger person than me could probably look deeper and find peace and not feel anger in their heart. I'm not there.
At 5 pm, I was midway through a proposal when I heard Kenny Loggins and Michael Jackson singing "We Are The World" in the courtyard outside my office. 'What on earth is going on out there?' I wondered, forgetting my scheduled going-away party.
At around 5:15 pm, the director of the institute walked into my office and said, "Shanni, it is not customary to be this late to your own party. Twendetu (Let's just go). TWENDE (Let's GO!)"
I walked through the courtyard to a hall of the institute. Inside, 20 colleagues had decorated the room with my favorite flowers, which they placed at a head table where I was to sit. They played my favorite Tanzanian music ("Twisty") and served my favorite beer ("Kili") and wine ("Hillekundu"). Midway through the dinner (again, my favorite, "Kuku na chips") the women gathered in a line, put me in a chair in the middle of the room, and starting singing while showering me with gifts including a basket, mini giraffe, CD, kanga and a beautiful wood carving.
The gifts from the staff were especially meaningful as members of the staff had remembered things I pointed out with admiration during the past couple of months. They remembered the intricate pattern of my favorite kanga (fabric) design and bought a deluxe version of it (triple wax, three yards). This thoughtfulness and attention to detail was beyond my imagination. I was touched, to say the least.
"Shanni," said one colleague while we danced across the floor to Twisty, "I think you love life. You love living... Karibu tena (Welcome again). Karibu sana (Heartfelt welcome). You're part of our family."
"I'm part of the family!" I exclaimed, with a touch of red wine running to my head. "Really!?! Do you think this means the family has adopted a little mzungu (white person)!"
This brought lots of laughs.
By 8 pm, I was smiling like I haven't smiled in awhile. The staff took turns telling funny stories to me, about me, for me.
In some strange way, I feel like Alfredo would have enjoyed knowing that this was how I ended my day thinking about him. He used to say the exact same thing - "You love life! You love living! You are part of the family! Karibu tena!"
It's true: I do love life. And I love living. I only wish it could last forever, for me and for everyone I love.