It seems far too often that I am sitting down in front of my computer to consul myself through my writing; yet, more bad news from Cameroon.
I received notification today that my host mother, Christine, passed away. For three months while I was training, this woman was like my mother. She opened up her doors to me, she fed me, she gave me a place to sleep, and she treated me like her son. For three months we talked together, we laughed together, and we lived together. Three months may not seem like enough time to have an impact on a person but I have found that it is more than adequate. A person’s hands can reach out and leave an imprint on our lives in far less a measure of time.
I discovered Christine in a land of differences. But a mother’s compassion and protection are never foreign. I was greeted by a massive hug, a huge smile, and directions of how to arrange my bedroom. On day one we bonded over a cold beer and what would become my favorite homemade meal: Christine’s signature smoked fish in peanut sauce with rice. During training, when the majority of my peers would pass hours at the bar, I preferred going home to spend time with “ma mère” and help with dinner. She would sit with me while I hand-did my laundry on weekends. She would slip a coin into my palm at church so that I would have something to put in the collection basket. She would spend hours baking a cake over a fire and then never fail to wrap me a little piece in aluminum foil so that I would have something to snack on at school the next day. She would do anything to make sure that I was happy. Just as any mother would.
And even though she was never married, nor did she have any children, Christine was a mother. No doubt. That woman was made to love and support and nurture all for whom she cared for. I am lucky enough to have been given the chance to have had the relationship we had – to not call her my host mother for those three months but to call her my mother. She was most often the largest woman in the room and always had the biggest laugh. Christine was full of life. Still, as hers abruptly ended at the age of 40, the strength and fervor and affection she displayed will never be forgotten.
May she rest in peace.