No one likes to say good-bye, especially if it's for a long time or potentially for a lifetime. I don't like good-byes, either, and I've had to say a lot of good-byes over the last few months.
The first good-bye occurred in June when we said farewell to our long-time colleagues Martin and Lucie Brown. They have been in Niger almost as long as Nancy and I, and their daughter, Naomi, has been one of Suzane's best friends. We don't if or when we will see them again.
The next good-bye was even harder. On Thrusday, July 26, I said good-bye to Daniel. I took him to breakfast that morning, told him everything I thought he needed to know (how do you do that in 30 minutes?), hugged him, and waved good-bye as he left for work. The tears misted my eyes as I drove back to MRF, where we had been spending our vacation. Later that day, Suzanne and I left PA to go to CT and fly on to Niger on July. It's hard to leave your grown-up son (who still seems so young) and not know if you'll see him in the next two years.
On July 27, I said good-bye to Nancy for five weeks. Though I'll see her again when she returns to Niger on Sept 5, I feel a little like a part of me is missing.
The last good-bye occurred when we arrived back in Niger on July 30. Unbeknownst to us, while we were en route, our dear friend and colleague, Helene Zoolkoski, died. She had been diagnosed 16 months ago with stage 4 melanoma. There is no cure for this stage of cancer. Helene did not take any medicine and remained symptom-free for almost a year. Her husband, Chris, is a doctor, and together they decided to return to Niger to live as long as they could here. Early this year, Helen began experiencing symptoms of the encroaching disease. I saw her for the last time in late April, and at that point she was having more good days than bad days, but by June when we left it was evident she was failing fast. The last week of July,while we were still in the US, we were hearing ominous reports of her condition, and we knew the end was near. In addition to her husband, she leaves behind three children: Elisheva, Zeb, and Joel. Eli was in the dorm last year and knows Suzanne well. She is the oldest at about 14. Joel is 6, and Zeb is about 10. They are returning to the US with their father tonight, August 14. Pray for them in the months ahead.
Nancy and I have known Helene since we were kids. She was only a year older than us, and we went to school together in Nigeria when we were all MKs. In our adult lives, we have worked with Helene in Niger off and on over the years. Nancy and Helene even taught together one year at Sahel Academy. She has been an educator, a mom, a wife, and a person of faith, and she will be greately missed and mourned in SIM Niger. Because of her love for and service to Sahel Academy, a tree was planted in her honor and in her memory at the school during this morning's opening assembly at the school. Good-bye, Helene
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