A letter from Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison for Central America, in Nicaragua
The liturgical calendar is a great tool for reflecting on the life of Christ in ways that teach us attitudes that can help us to build our faith. It can enable us to get a better grasp on the lessons that we need to be reminded of year after year. But sometimes those lessons get thrown at us in other ways, at a different rhythm, and sometimes seemingly all at once.
This year, Advent for me was drawn out long past Christmas. Being pregnant during the Advent season, I had a new understanding of a season set aside for anticipating great joy and promise as well as a lot of waiting. Our anxiousness and waiting ended when Catherine Emelina Ortega King was born on February 16; indeed bringing great joy into our lives. It was a joy to share with family here and far away. Of course I had to call my mom from the delivery room to share the news of her first granddaughter. That shared joy continued with a handful of cousins there to greet us as we were rolled out of the delivery room at 4 in the morning, followed by a stream of visitors over the next hours and days, anxious to meet Catherine Emelina.
Just three weeks after Catherine Emelina’s birth began the season of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting and service. A significant part of the 40 days leading up to Christ’s resurrection is the reality of death and loss. That life lesson came early for me this year when my father, Michael Desmond King, suddenly passed away on February 26 after a fall in which he hit his head, causing several bleeds in his brain.
The news came to me as we were celebrating my husband Mainor’s birthday with family and friends. Quite a few of his family had already left, but turned right around to accompany me in my loss. Here in Nicaragua, when someone dies, people immediately begin to gather in support, so Mainor’s birthday party quickly became a wake. The following morning, at church, at least 20 close family and friends, not normal churchgoers, were there, continuing their accompaniment of me.
Upon hearing the news of my dad’s death, the passage from Ecclesiastes 3, made famous by the Byrd’s song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” immediately came to mind. When I finally got some time to myself, I turned to that Scripture and began to read. The words brought me comfort, though I am not entirely sure why. As it says, “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” But for me, everything was happening all at once. Losing my dad just 10 days after the birth of my child brought on a roller coaster of emotions. The mix of extreme emotions not felt before — the joy of new life and the pain of loss of a loved one so close to me — left me not knowing how to feel. To a great extent, I just felt numb, and continue to feel that way, leaving me wondering if I have missed out on some of the joy AND sorrow that I should be experiencing at this time in my life.
Fortunately we were able to rush my daughter’s documents through and get both her passports expedited, which allowed us to travel and be with my family just a few days after my dad died. Back in the United States I took advantage of a local resource and attended a breast-feeding support group. One new mother I made friends with there told about how she was wanting to stay at home with her twins as much as possible for the first 40 days to protect them as much as possible from the world out there. She reminded me of how in Nicaragua the first 40 days of a newborn’s life are marked by control, for both mom and baby, laden with many beliefs that restrict foods you can eat and activities you can participate in. Whether I was going to observe those 40 days or not was not an option for me. My dad had died and just two weeks after giving birth, I was on a plane with my new baby, traveling internationally to mourn our loss with my family. In sharing this with my new mommy friend, it occurred to me that we have no control. Yes, I was doing all I could to be the best mom I can be, but in the end I found that comfort and assurance came in letting go.
And the comfort and assurances have been there. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy cards and the 300-plus in attendance at the funeral as well as all the gifts and hugs of congratulations as Catherine Emelina is welcomed into our circle. I am still on this emotional roller coaster, struggling to make sense of it all, but the lessons I am learning are making me stronger as I long to feel the joy more joyfully and the sorrow more deeply.
I will close with a rough translation of a prayer that a dear friend here in Nicaragua sent me. These words have been a source of strength.
I will walk with trust in the Lord, even though I don’t know how it ends.
Lord, thank you for giving me the faith, strength and hope that I need. I know that my life, my family, my future, my work are in your hands.
You know the final goal of my journey because you have predetermined it, and it is in trusting in you that I want to move and in faith that I want to live.
Blessings and peace,
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 280
Give to Tracey King-Ortega’s sending and support. [You can always give online. See the Give box in the left column of every page. —Ed.]
Tracy, I try to keep up with some Central American things...just Googled your name and came up with this happy/sad newsletter. I trust that the second half of the year has been one for you to both recover and move forward. If and when you have time, drop a line or forward a recent letter, please. About now in San Salvador a three-day regional meeting is finalizing; following up I guess on one from February in Costa Rica: lots of strategy and plan changes. "Dios dira." Fraternalmente, Lou (Escondido CA; formerly in El Salvador with CRWM)