Tuesday, February 02, 2010

White tents and gold bars

Another white tent is fluttering in our neighborhood. Breanna and I learned several months ago what that meant. Last year it was in the front yard of a house two doors down. We received an invitation to attend the memorial service and donate to help cover costs.

This white tent is further down the street from us. However, it has had a bigger impact. It has meant an empty desk across the hall from where I sit. Carolyn, who provides a great service in our bookings
department, lost her son two weeks ago. In an airplane accident.

The tent went up the next day.

Every night she has had friends come over from church, from work, and from family, and they spend time singing from the hymn book, and then share some updates on the arrangements for the burials. His flight training complete up to the point of being a flight instructor, Daudi (David in English) was attending a bible school in Michigan. Getting his body over here took a lot of time. The bible school paid for everything to bring his body to Kenya.

The more I hear about Daudi the more I am impressed. I actually had heard of him two years ago while I was talking to a friend at Eastside Community Church in Wichita. My friend's uncle, Barry, was one of several people wanting to help Daudi get through his training as a pilot / mechanic in the US.

He must have been very focused, dependable, and charismatic. All the old timers speak well of him. Many wanted to help, and he turned them down. While he wanted to be a professional pilot, he wanted to keep his options open. Perhaps we would return and join AIM AIR, or perhaps he had his sites elsewhere. Wherever that was, no one doubts he would be serving God.

Tomorrow we bury him here in Nairobi. Again, pilots have been asked to attend in uniform... white shirts with the gold bars. As I imagine wearing that shirt again, the bars become heavier and heavier.

I went to Carolyn's house for one of the evening services under the white tent. Her strength of character is amazing to see. I think I see where Daudi got his quality. She fled her home country when Daudi was
still small, and has lived in Nairobi as an estranged non-citizen. But you would never know it. She tackles each assignment with grace and poise that makes a person feel good about the day when you leave the office. That is how the time was under the tent. Catching up with friends, sharing memories about her son. Meeting previously unmet wives or husbands attached to coworkers.

I don't know what tomorrow will be like. It will be my first African funeral, and I am a little apprehensive. I don't think I need to be, though, knowing as much as I do about this mother and the son she raised across borders and set free to pursue a dream of flying in a distant country. And as hard as it is to see a mother bury her son, this was no ordinary son, and this is no ordinary mother. Those bars
don't feel so heavy now...

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