My second son, Kevin, had made a trip to Honduras with our church group a few years ago and when we picked him up at the airport, he looked shell shocked. The trip was almost too much for his tender, compassionate heart. As we ate dinner, he tried to tell us about the journey but was too moved to speak. We have pictures of him dancing with an elderly lady at a retirement home, and surrounded by children playing a game. He is glowing. I love those pictures. In the days after, we heard more of his stories and one day he quietly told us about Cynthia..
He met her in a small village on one of the group's side trips.She peeked out at him from beneath a ragged thin grey blanket.This girl of eight kept herself covered for two reasons: the sun was her enemy and the tumors were a sight. They covered her small back, neck and head and they were growing. Cynthia had been born with a rare genetic anomaly, xeroderma pigmentosum. Her body lacked pigment and therefore any exposure to the UV rays of the sun would cause irreparable harm. In her case, by the time someone took her to a large city for a diagnosis, it was too late.There are case in the United State and with early diagnosis and extreme measures, the victim can live a long life. However, a very restricted one-no exposure to the sun.Windows treated to keep out UV rays, only night playing outside.There are camps for these afflicted children and all the boating, Frisbee throwing, swimming is done at night.My mind cannot understand such a life.
Part of Cynthia's story is remarkable. I heard of the way that her siblings took care of her. More than one piece of candy for her; if she felt unwell, back rubs, cool cloths on her forehead and hand holding. Perhaps they sang her a sweet song as she suffered.They protected her and loved her deeply.
The next year, a new group was going and I put an envelope in the hand of the friar leading the group.I wrote her name, included a small note and a little pink beaded rosary. If I recall the story correctly, when they got to her village, she was out so they left the envelope at her hut.I like to think that holding the pretty beads made her feel special.
Cynthia's story has often tested my faith. When I close my eyes, I see this: a small grave in the dusty village cemetery with a poor wooden cross carved: Cynthia, aged 10yrs 4 mo.. But now I also see: a free child, whole, laughing, running through golden fields surrounded by love. And when each of her siblings leave this world, she will be smiling and leading them to that brightest of Lights that doesn't hurt the eyes or harm the skin.Amen.