On March 6th 2006, my world as I knew it would change forever! I could never go back to what was, for what used to be would feel like a distant memory… It would feel like something that was so far from reach, like another time… another place. That chapter of my life would close forever. A new one would begin.
My beautiful daughter came into this life with great purpose. Her name is Meah, (Mia) meaning ‘one’ in Greek. While pregnant with her, I spoke to her, I asked her questions and listened. We spoke with silence and we understood each other with emotion and feeling. I asked her often, ‘for what purpose are you coming?’ The answer I felt was that she was coming to teach. She was coming to show me a new way of living, of seeing and of experiencing this world.
Meah never made it into this life. I was induced with a drug called Cytotec. My uterus hyper stimulated and tore in two places and Meah was deprived of oxygen and died before ever taking a breath in this life. I felt the excruciating pain of a violent labor and of my womb ripping. I felt a painful heaviness on my chest and shortly after, I felt as though the life in me was leaving. I was told that I almost bled to death.
I cannot even describe with words what it felt like to hear that my daughter had died. There is nothing that could ever prepare you for such a feeling. The pediatrician walked over to my husband and I with tears in his eyes and said,
‘I’m so sorry, your daughter didn’t make it, I tried… but there was no heart beat!’
Those words were more painful than my imagination could have ever imagined. I held her lifeless little body in my weak arms. She was beautiful. Her little fingers, her tiny toes… all 8 pounds of her was pure perfection. I had for so long imagined the moment her eyes would look into mine. I had imagined the first time I’d hold her in my arms and feel her little heart beating against my own. But now, there was no life in her. It felt as though a knife had stabbed me in my heart and as time passed, it remained there, endlessly turning and turning. The days, weeks and months often felt like a living hell. I tried to find my way through it all… desiring comfort and peace but having no idea how I might reach it. I wanted to feel joy again, to live with inspiration but there was too much sadness, too much grief that I couldn’t even get a sense of what joy or inspiration could feel like. I could not help but experience on a daily basis, intense anger at the doctor and hatred for the fact that in my heart, I felt she had caused the death of my daughter. I was angered by her carelessness. I felt hatred that she would use a drug on me that I felt clearly should never have been used. I wondered why I had been induced? Why on that day when she would not be there for me, would she use such a dangerous drug? Where did half of my records disappear to? Everyday my mind was plagued by questions I had no answers to. There were many days that I blamed myself for not listening to my body, for not knowing more than I did. Some days I even hated myself. I thought over and over of all the different possibilities… had I done this… or not done that… she might have still been with us.
I knew that if I were going to survive this and still be the mother my living son deserved, the wife and friend my husband needed and the person I wanted to be in this life, I had to do something. I decided I needed to become active in my journey of healing.
I knew that if there were to be a significant change, I would have to become conscious of my thoughts, words and actions. I would have to begin to change the ways in which I was seeing my experience and try to look at it differently. I would have to bring gratitude, love, kindness and compassion to myself and to others. I would need to forgive! Perhaps it was this need that led me to Immaculee Ilibagiza and to Rwanda.
I had first heard Immaculee’s story of her experience of the Rwandan genocide when I was pregnant with Meah. Later, after her death, I would travel to Orlando to the ‘I Can Do It’ conference for her workshop on forgiveness. Immaculee had lost almost all of her family members during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Over one million people died in a period of 3 months. Immaculee survived by hiding in a tiny bathroom with 7 other women. When the genocide was finally over and it was safe for her to come out of hiding, she learned the traumatic and brutal reality… almost everyone that she knew and loved had been slaughtered to death. What amazed me most about Immaculee was her ability to find compassion for the very people who killed her family and find forgiveness in the midst of her pain.
Simply hearing Immaculee’s story changed me. It gave me strength and motivation to move forward… to grow from my pain and to become something new. I traveled to Rwanda with Immaculee in June of 2007 and then again with a friend in June of 2008.
What I can express about Rwanda is that it touched my heart in a very special way and I shall never be the same again. From the moment I arrived, from the voices of little children and from the eyes and the hearts of the people, nothing in my life could ever be what it was. Genocide destroyed family, destroyed lives, people and it destroyed a country. I wondered how the human spirit could live on, how could it heal and how could it forgive?
In the beginning, the effects of the genocide were through my eyes everywhere, perhaps because it was so deep in my mind that nothing I saw could exist as separate from that. Where there were smiles, I felt pain, where there was laughter, I felt the cries, where there was beauty I asked why? As strong emotions and feelings became a part of my experience there, new heart, new wisdom, new life was born in me. I found that I was being given many gifts, many blessings and I can only say that I am still in awe as to how such pain and suffering could lead to what I believe to be the most precious, most honorable and most sacred acts, the act of forgiveness and reconciliation. There is pain but there is also so much love. There is anger but also compassion. There was evil but I still saw goodness everywhere.
Perhaps the best way for me to express the greatest part of my healing while in Rwanda, would be to end with a letter I wrote while I was there, for I believe in so many ways, it is a true testament that even in pain and hurt, anger and hatred, there can be love, compassion, hope and forgiveness.
…Who would have imagined that two years ago that this is where the death of my daughter Meah would lead me. Her name means ‘One’ and indeed, she has led me to a whole new world… one that reminds me that indeed, we are so very connected and that in this world of so much difference, we are still one. If we look deeply we can find ourselves in each other …and we are all a part of the one!!!
Pastor Deo is a tall thin man and he works with the prisoners and the victims. In a room of over 50 people, killers and victims, he asked them to face each other and to look into each others eyes… ‘look deeply’ he said ‘…and tell me what you see!’
I noticed one women look into the eyes of her family’s killer…
He then asked the question, what do you see?
The answer was that she saw a reflection of herself… then he asked the man what he saw… he too replied that he saw his own reflection. Immediately my heart filled with love and compassion…. I understood in that very moment that in order to have compassion… in order to forgive… to feel love for ones self and for another is to see yourself in everyone and everyone in yourself.
He then asked… if you could see yourself in another person… could you hurt that person? To kill another is to kill your self. When you kill someone, you have killed a part of yourself!!!
I sat with tears flowing, knowing that indeed, my daughter had led me to this very moment!
My mind is constantly expanding with all that I see and experience. I never imagined that I’d be in a prison somewhere in the middle of Rwanda, walking with no protection through a passage way made by 4,000 genocide killers. I walked through and I felt no fear. I made eye contact and felt the presence of God so big here. Maybe that sounds strange to many, but there is something far greater happening than I could even begin to express.
…Yesterday, I bought a peace basket that was made by the hands of a victim as well as the one who killed her family. Together, they weaved the fibers of love, compassion and forgiveness and what became was a beautiful basket of peace.
I spent the day yesterday with street kids and women who were survivors of the Genocide, rape victims who now live with HIV and Aids. We sang, we danced and they told me that even with their pain, they must sing and dance for it raises the energy and brings life back into their soul.
I taught them how to make jewelry and I have never seen people more eager to learn. They were so proud of their works of art… my heart is still full of emotion for what I experienced.
As it got late into the evening, the kids left to find there place on the street for the night. This broke my heart. They left together making their way back into the city, back to the harsh cruel reality with which they are living…
Blessings and Love,
My daughter never made it into this life, but while death came through me, new life was born in me. She showed me that even in darkness, there is light… that even when anger and pain, hatred and hopelessness make the world seem ugly, without a doubt, there is beauty everywhere.