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Chumma

March 2, 2007

Last week I wrote about a young girl at Mother Teresa’s I have been caring for, who spends her days on a cot or tied in a wheelchair. Some small changes we were making seemed to be bringing life back to her eyes and drawing the other women to her. Then, just a day after I wrote, I arrived to find she was back to being bent at the waist in her wheelchair, without the pillows and had had her head shaved for ease of care. One step forward, two steps back. Ugh.

This work is about repetition, small advances, and the blind hope that something little will break through, and carry on after you’ve gone. So, back went the pillows. Out came the oil for her razored skin. And back out of the dark dormitory and into the fray we went, leading a noisy, disorganized, ragtag parade of off-kilter ladies (myself, included) into the garden.

img_0373.jpgFast forward to a week later — the bedsores are healing, the pillows are faithfully arranged each morning, and sweet Shanthi giggles and yells happily through our messy breakfast feeding as I make chumma (kissing) noises and laugh at her silliness. She cries and shivers through her bathing and wound dressing, but does so with a newfound ferocity I adore. She is fast becoming the favoured, treasured child of many of the women, and they compete to coax smiles and shouts from her lips. They tell me that until last week, no one knew that Shanthi could smile.

Today, she grabbed hold of my hand, and struggled for a minute or more to pull it toward her face. Fearing a bite, I pulled back, but she was having none of it. She forced my hand to her mouth and held her it to her lips for ten seconds or so, before kissing it loudly. I cried like a fool. If nothing else this long month of mine, it is enough.

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8 comments

  1. I’m crying, too. It was a beautiful story, Kara. Thank you.


  2. Tears here as well. The world needs more people like you, Kara. You inspire us all.


  3. That first connection is always a moment of sweet joy!

    Now that other people can see her as a responsive (albeit still severely disabled) person, you have already one of the most powerful things that anyone can do for her. Well done!


  4. I love hearing your stories and feeling like I have talked to you. I think of you every day and am proud of you and happy for you that your are fulfilling your dream. I miss you and look forward to seeing you soon! Am sending our love!


  5. Sweet, remarkable story, Kara. Thanks so mucho for sharing it with us! And this blog was the bestest of ideas.

    I too miss you terribly (what’s that saying about taking for granted who’s there ’till they aren’t? Time for me to stop THAT shit!), hope you are healthy and happy, and can’t wait to read the next blog entry. I’ve said it before, girl. You are a *huge* inspiration!

    One thing you never mention here, and that’s if YOU need/want anything. I’m sure Damon is making sure you get whatever you need, but could you please do me a favor and blog a list of things that might be wanted or helpful in some way? Ranch dressing, f’rinstance? šŸ˜‰

    In my house (because I know you find the subject of me endlessly fascinating – heh): Willow is well and thoroughly potty-trained, Tristan is triumphant over a nasty cold and below B grades (yay), Christopher got a raise, and I got a clean bill of health from my cardiologist. Nutshell. šŸ™‚

    Love you very much. Be safe. (Hi Damon!)
    Tari


  6. Great story/ies. This blog idea was a master stroke. Saw R Jane yesterday. We’re still best of friends.

    H


  7. That is an unbelievable story! This is the first chance I got to read the blog and it’s amazing! I don’t think I will be able to stay away now! News on the Troy front …pick out the new pup in 3 weeks. So pumped! Hope you are enjoying Damon time this week. love – Jessica


  8. Kara, it’s taken me a shocking amount of time to get my lazy ass up to your blog, and instantly you blow me away with a story like that. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
    You have my respect and admiration for being able to up sticks and go far away from home and hearth to get down into the thick of things and make a difference one to one, up close and personal. People like you are a gift to the world.
    Keep it up girl, we’re behind you! Flickr is a slightly quieter place without you.
    Lynne xx



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