Yesterday, we put our friend, Cathy Johnson, on the plane for her return journey home. She's spent the last three weeks with us, for which she deserves a medal of honour. She arrived in time for the celebrations held in Zambia, found her footing with three African roommates right out off the bat...sleeping with the light on and all that goes on with three Bemba speaking women and a baby sharing a room with a Canadian. Cathy fits so well in Africa it was hard at times to remember that this is her first time here. She got very, very sick after celebrations, while we were at Kachele Farm, one of a few people who got hit hard by some virus or bug. She spent days, in and out of fever, throwing up and all that glamorous stuff that goes along with it. We nursed her back to health as best we could with Kraft Dinner from home and copious cups of tea...but truly, I think she just willed it away.
Cathy walked through communities like Kamakonde, Racecourse and Mulenga with us. She fell in love in Zimba with the care workers and the children and I could see that the way she moved about the care point with chidren in her arms and at her feet, that this is not going to be her last trip to Africa. I'm not sure she knows that yet.
Best of all, Cathy became Easton's best buddy on this trip. She taught him how to paint beautiful watercoloured pictures and journalled with him. She watched numerous Harry Potter movies and read alongside him. They became fast friends. He was very sad to see her go yesterday.
I spent several years sharing a cubicle beside Cathy. I knew we were kindred spirits in a dark humoured sort of way. We've laughed together, groaned, lamented and exhausted ourselves together in a work environment that at times was comical, most times dysfunctional, several times intolerable and finally, we left it within months of each other. Cathy's testimony a few years ago broke through something in me - a grief that I had been carrying since leaving Reno, and allowed me to finally get back to living. She's artistic, sarcastic, smart and clever. She's braver than many women I know and lives it out in a way that makes me wish she would write it down as a road map for others to follow. She's at home with sinners and saints and can cross the bridge between cultures seamlessly. It's really been amazing to have her along. It reminded me too of my first visit to Zambia, the way I saw it with fresh eyes. For that, I am so very thankful. Most of all, she's a great travelling companion.
So, Saskatoon, I'm returning to you our friend, Cathy. She's different, enhanced and alive. For those of you who she works with at AIDS Saskatoon, she's better, more focused and full of ideas of how to take what she's learned here and apply it at home. We'll see you in a few weeks, Cath! I can't wait to catch up with you.