I was grateful to receive this eulogy for Suliaman from Susie F., a nurse practitioner I was fortunate enough to serve with in Sierra Leone, and now someone I consider a close friend.
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It was the middle of January and the number of survivors being discharged seemed to dissipate. We seemed to be losing multiple children a day and I was seeing first-hand the families being decimated – in some instances parents surviving the virus, but none of their children or significant others making it though; in other instances children now orphaned and facing a life of being in a haphazard Social Services system. It felt like nothing we were doing in the treatment unit was helping these sick patients survive the virus.
Usually I walked home, but I felt drained of energy on this afternoon. I left Maforki an hour early to try to take a short nap and have a little time for myself. I walked out front and saw Suliaman waiting in a car ready to take someone wherever they needed to go. With tears welling up in my eyes I slowly got in the front seat of the car.
“Where you going?” Sulliman asked in much improved English that I recognized immediately, since I hadn’t ridden with him in weeks.
“Can I go home, like back to the US home? Back where something makes sense.” I started crying and I couldn’t stop.
I looked out the passenger window as Sulliman pulled out onto the road. He drove carefully, which was nice, as not all the drivers were “safe drivers”. I stared out the window as the tears streamed down my face and I felt I had NO control over the waterworks.
We arrived at the Ghetto, which by now felt just as comfortable as any other place I felt I knew at that time. I unlocked the door to get out and Suliaman said as he laid his hand on my arm, “Thank you for being here to help my people. Without you all would be so worse.”
I looked at him and should have said something nice in return or at least thanked him. He looked at me with deep sincere eyes and looked back at him thinking, I hope he knows how much that just meant to me, but I felt unable to talk. I squeezed his hand, got out of the car and closed the door. I looked back before I rounded the corner to my room and he looked at me with big loving eyes gave me the biggest smile. I went to my room still crying but feeling an increased sense of ease over my day.
When I learned of Suliaman’s death last week I was waiting for my husband at a local hangout. I found myself in tears in the middle of the bar. I felt overwhelmed and anxious, a feeling I have become accustomed to over the last 9 months of reentry. It is the feeling of helplessness and sorrow for those that have lost their life to this fight. I want to honor these babies, children, young adults, parents and grandparents in some way but I am still at a loss for a meaningful and proper way to do this.
I often dream of death or dying and those that were lost in Sierra Leone are commonly in the forefront of my dreams. On mornings when I don’t think I have dreamt of the lost, I wake up thinking of them; they have probably been in my dreams but I just don’t remember. Suliaman has been in my thoughts for the last 5 days and I hope that his family realizes what an amazing young man they raised.