Monrovia - I awoke early this morning but stayed covered and quiet, reviewing and reflecting on my two weeks here now. I am blessed that God urged me to regularly write and document all that has happened here in Liberia since July. I was particularly reviewing my time at Benson Hospital yesterday, thinking of the hundreds of health care workers who continually tried to help those suffering so much… The images of the hospital yesterday haunt me; the faces of those waiting for help, the enthusiasm and pride of the workers despite the most challenging conditions. I can only imagine what it all must have been like in the height of the crisis.
Late evening here in Monrovia - I just heard from a member of the Vice President’s staff – April 13th will not be Ebola Eradication Day in Liberia unfortunately:
Liberia Reports First Ebola Case in Weeks
By SHERI FINK and RICK GLADSTONEMARCH 20, 2015
A patient in Liberia has tested positive for the Ebola virus, health officials said Friday, more than two weeks after the last known case in the country had been discharged from the hospital.
Liberia - All of the spiritual teachings I have studied for decades stress this, even-mindedness. Notice the emotions that appear. Watch them like clouds passing in the sky. Let them pass vs being drawn into them. Just notice. I am acutely aware of this practice here and how challenging it is for me this time in Liberia. The extremes of great grief and great joy are present everywhere. Complete and utter disappointment and tremendous gratitude to God for surviving ebola. Such extremes. I am challenged to be in even-mindedness.
From all over Monrovia - I went to bed last night and stayed there for nearly 10 hours – the tremendous joy and the tremendous grief… seems the magnitude of this unprecedented ebola crisis took my energy… I surprised myself, but surrendered. This morning – prayer and meditation, review of US emails, a workout in the gym – and then off again for another amazing day in Liberia. I started at the ELWA Hospital, the epicenter of the ebola crisis.
Another National Holiday in Liberia – Today is the anniversary of the birthday of the first President of Liberia; I am sorry to report that I do not know who he was as other things have so had my attention since returning here. I am exhausted emotionally and physically tonight, but cannot rest without writing… After a good sleep last evening, a welcome workout in the gym this morning, a special breakfast with a hotel friend, a few moments on a chaise lounge by the sea – I showered and prepared for what I thought was going to be a brief conversation with a few Liberians directly affected by this ebola crisis. After almost five hours of “listening to testimony” from a dozen health-care workers and ebola survivors, I am in awe, compete awe…
As I awake in my bed in Villa 1005 at the Kendeja - I stayed curled up under the covers – not wanting to let the light of this day interfere with my conversation with God – my prayers so big – the only conversation and reality I wanted to have, to continue… Then the ting of a text received on my US phone interrupted my total joy and gratitude. Pause. Then the second ting. I reached for my phone to find this message:
Monrovia, Liberia - My great thanks to Diane Bell for sharing my thoughts from Liberia with San Diego, and hopefully beyond in America! Another day of extreme emotion here in Liberia – great joy and celebration and great grief and heartbreak. The film crew and I reviewed our first week for hours today. Powerful. Henry and Armah have captured so much, documented so much. They are my heroes, a gift from God to help me tell the story I am so blessed to share…
Monrovia, Liberia - I have been sitting by the sea – being quiet by the sea – praying by the sea, for the first time in the days I have been here. It rained this afternoon, a brief monsoon passed through, the early evening clouds now plentiful… There is nothing like the African sky. The bigness. The clouds. The wonder…
My emotions are extreme. Such joy to be back in Liberia and to see so many people I treasure alive and well. Such grief at the losses of so many lives marked at the new National Cemetery. And those extremes are present in every conversation I have here – great joy and great grief.
Monrovia, Liberia - Even though I consider myself knowledgeable about Liberia and ebola, I continue to learn so much by being here on the ground. The global effort to combat Ebola has cost $4.3 billion to date, more than twice as much as the $1.58 billion needed to improve healthcare systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Crisis reaction instead of prevention wake-up call.
Monrovia, Liberia - This is a day of remembrance, to visit and clean the graves of those departed. And it is a very different Decoration Day after the Ebola crisis. I took a trip to the new National Cemetery early this morning. It is just off the Robertsfield Airport Highway more than an hour from central Monrovia, almost to the airport. It opened December 24, 2014, the day the crematorium closed. The Indian community made their crematorium available to the country during the height of the crisis as traditional burial practices were escalating the infection rates. It is impossible to imagine the impact cremation has had on so many families – so completely opposite their traditions of washing and touching and honoring the dead before burial. All of this impossible now with Ebola. The cremation remains of 3000 of the more than 4,100 people who died of Ebola in Liberia were transferred from the crematorium to the new cemetery last Saturday, in preparation for this Decoration Day.
Deborah Lindhom is the Founder and CEO of the Foundation for Women. For over 20 years she has lived and worked in Africa, India and the United States on issues of poverty, education and microcredit.