• January 27, 2015

Ecuador: The Last Dance

by Brittany Koepke, on mis­sion in Guayaquil.

“In this mis­sion, we share all aspects of life with our friends. The good times…and the hard times. The joyful times…and the sor­rowful times.

Not long ago, we were all blind­sided with the news that a very close friend of ours, Señora Gertrudes, passed away. This news was espe­cially shocking because just the night before she died, Señora Gertrudes was dancing at our house for Julia´s goodbye party. (Julia was a fellow mis­sionary that lived with me.) When I heard this news, I imme­di­ately thought of all the plans I had hoped to do with Señora Gertrudes-the book by Scott Hahn I still had not lent her, the movie she invited me to watch with her, and the feeling of I wish I would have vis­ited her more or at least gotten to say goodbye. But these were my plans and my “wish I could haves.” I was reminded, yet again, of the con­crete truth that our lives and the time we are given are com­pletely in God´s hands. And every breath is a gift from Him.

Señora Gertrudes did not live what most would call an easy life. But her last days here with us were lived well. Señora Gertrudes was a cat­e­chist at our parish and the day before she passed away she con­cerned her­self with the kids´ First Communion that were soon to take place. She gave a gen­erous dona­tion to the church for flowers to dec­o­rate for the First Communion. And the night before she passed away she was sur­rounded with all her friends at our house gath­ered to send Julia back to her Austrian home­land with a dance party. It is no secret that Señora Gertrudes was a woman that loved to dance. And she got her last dance.

Many tears were shed. The hardest times were the days fol­lowing her death when we vis­ited her teenage chil­dren in their home…without their mother there. There are not words to say. But as I came alongside her daughter cooking calmly at the stove, she imme­di­ately reached out to embrace me and we both began to cry. I had not been super close friends with her daughter before­hand in all hon­esty and that is why her sobs on my shoulder reminded me of the impor­tance of this mis­sion of com­pas­sion. This cross for their family is not one we can take away. But we can be with them at the foot of their cross-as a pres­ence, as a friend, as a lit­eral shoulder to cry on, as a gift of con­so­la­tion that they are not alone in their mourning.”

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