"Hey dear friend," the text read. "Can you let me know when you get this?"
I knew from the message that there was urgency to Ciska's request. We had been out of cell range for the better part of 3 days on a camping trip with friends but in that spot under the big tree by the dry river bed, there was enough coverage to deliver the brief text. I decided not to bother writing back and forth and just dialed her instead.
So it was that we heard the news that Byron's mom had passed away. It was Wednesday morning in Tanzania and Norma had died early Monday morning (August 2nd), Florida time.
Norma had suffered from Alzheimer's for about 7 years. Even though we knew that her time was coming to a close, none of us were expecting it that week. And even when death is a true relief and blessing, it breaks something that can never be put back together in the same way. Oscar's bride, Byron's mom, our children's paternal grandmother is not here anymore.
Driving home took us through rough, wild, beautiful Africa for about 3 hours. It was fitting, I thought, to be surrounded by all we were seeing. The area reminded Byron of a place where his family used to hunt for the meat they ate years ago in Kenya. I thought of Norma and what a good sport she was on all those trips. There she was, a farmer's daughter and pastor's wife, not enjoying any of the "thrill of the hunt" but getting plenty of the work load! And I know she did it all with a good attitude. Norma loved to work hard serving others and that was often seen in all things related to food. I could just picture her keeping all the camp well fed and cheerfully helping with every aspect of butchering the animal. It made me smile as we bounced along.
We got the news mid-morning and Byron was flying to Florida the following night. How thankful we are that he could join his dad and 2 sisters to grieve and celebrate the farm girl who cared for others so easily and laughed at herself so often.
Norma was 85 when she died. We are eternally grateful for her life.