On Sunday, March 13 I arrived in Kitwe, Zambia for the month-long Africa Peacebuilding Institute. On the same night my parents were called by the care home where my Grandma had been since January to tell them that she was about to make her final journey.
It was fitting that my first class of the Institute was on Trauma Healing and Awareness. While my grandma struggled to breath during her last week I heard stories of pain and loss and grief and mourning and finally, of hope. Globally, these stories can have so many similarities – centered around communities and food and music and storytelling – we learn how to accept what has happened and move forward.
Last Tuesday, as my Grandma was buried, I was studying Non-Violence Practices. Traditional rituals of reconciliation in Africa often center around sharing food and I remembered all the time food was shared around my grandparents’ table. Not necessarily to bring us back together after a conflict but to keep strong our family ties over “good solid Mennonite food”. My grandma was practicing Conflict Prevention in its truest form.
I’ve felt my Grandma’s presence strongly in the days following her death. There have been reminders of her everywhere here in Zambia, which I am sure would have surprised her greatly. From the Dutch Blitz I played with other Canadian students, to the Zweiback at the local MCCers’ house (the last time I ate Zweiback was with my Grandma!), to the hymns we sing in chapel each morning I know that she is here with me.
This week I will study Arts Approaches in Peacebuilding and I will again be reminded of Grandma. Of her love of music and the importance that it had in her life. My final class is Peacebuilding Practices: Monitoring and Evaluation. I am not sure where I will see Grandma here, but I know I will.
** After taking this picture in 2008 (or maybe as it was being taken since it seems like I am the only one looking at the camera), Grandma said, “People who see this picture will think I don’t feed my family proper meals.” Don’t worry Grandma. We always left your table well satisfied. **