June 16, 2005
I gaze at the numerous pots gathering steam on my stove stop. A sigh escapes my lips as I think of the number of things needing washing; me, Abby, Tim, the pile of dishes from last night’s dinner and this morning’s hurried breakfast. Pot after pot goes on the blue flame to boil and then pour out into the bathtub basin as the morning ritual begins. I have a month of no hot water to look forward to. Thank goodness, the washing machine heats up its own water. As first a protesting Abby and then a giggling Tim gets soaped and scrubbed, I begin to smile at my pessimistic attitude. This may be inconvenient, but it is certainly not suffering. As I begin to pray for those who are truly suffering, my heart begins to rejoice in the blessings I treasure in this life. The laughter and smile of two beautiful healthy children, the love of a wonderful man, the lovely sunshine streaming through my kitchen windows, the Word of God written on my heart and open in my hands. How blessed I truly am!! “Thank you Lord for dishes to eat on and food to put on those dishes”, as I start the dishes, “Thank you for the clothes we wear and the ability to wash them in a machine” as I hang up the morning laundry. “For Your provision and blessings both spiritually and physically, for the love which sent You to the cross and raised You from the dead!” The complaining attitude disappears as does the dirt.
The skies rejoiced the morning she was born. I was up at dawn as the contractions came closer and closer together. When I left our tiny cabin in Porvoo, Finland I was greeted by one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. Rose tipped clouds were accented by a brilliant gold to mauve colored sky. We chose to name her Abigail Joy because joy was present from the day she was born.
Abigail “The Joy of the Lord” has brought a soft feminine touch to our family of rambunctious wrestling boys (Tim and Dad) and one tired mom. She is certainly different from Timothy even from the very beginning. Whereas Tim would finish feeding in 15 minutes max. leaving spit up all over mom and himself, she takes her time, gazing up at me, flirting with her eyes. 40 minutes later we wrap up with a polite burp, compliments to the chef. Tim at her age would scream with all the pent up passion in his little body at any excuse. She lets out small complaints only wailing when seriously scared or hurt. Tim woke the neighbors; she just wakes up papa who at the slightest whimper jumps to the side of her crib to make sure all is fine, nook in mouth, blanket keeping her warm. I think a father’s ears are particularly tuned to an infant’s cry, because I can sleep through her loudest wails until Aaron nudges me several times to remind me it’s my turn. Truth be told, she is a very easy baby, sleeping from 10pm to 6am (Go Baby Wise!) at two months of age, and is happy with a full tummy, good sleep, and clean diapers. We coo and awe at her, snuggle her close and smell the sweet baby smell of her. She has charmed us utterly, winning our hearts.
Tim as an older brother is doing splendidly well. He kisses and hugs her, gives her all manner of toys, and is even willing to share his “Blanky” with her. He watches mom and tries to comfort Abby by putting her nook in her mouth if she is crying. I have to watch him in his toddler eagerness as he gives her all manner of stuff to entertain her. He has never struck at her, or shown jealousy. I do my best to have “snuggle” and “story” time with him several times a day. Sometimes I have a child in each arm as we sing “Jesus Loves Me” with Tim hitting half the words in his sing song voice, Abby looking at us in wonder as we sing louder and louder, our voices clashing.
“Boat mama, Boat!!!”, Timothy yells from the bedroom window. I am used to the tourist boats traveling up and down our lovely canal so I glance with little interest out the window. A crowd has gathered on the opposite bank watching a dilapidated police boat as it trowels up and down the canal close to our home. I watch a little more closely and with some disbelief as the two officers on board frantically try to snag a body floating face down. With long hooked sticks they circle round their pray trying to get a lassoed rope around the corpse. As one officer takes a dunk by leaning too far over, Tim claps his hand excitedly at the action. Grabbing my delighted son from the wide windowsill, I try to get him interested in his toy box. “Let’s play with your cars, Tim” I encourage my loudly protesting toddler. Thirty minutes later, I notice they have successfully caught the body and it is now lying face up, its arms and legs reaching skyward on the stair landing just above the water in plain view of all passersby. There are no police to be seen. I can just imagine the tour guide on the passing boats as they explain that sight. I gaze at the poor lonely fellow, his outstretched arms a plea, forever caught in the grips of rigamortis. It is only a matter of time before two young men stop their car for a smoke and walk over to the landing. Sudden shock registers on their faces as they grab their cell phones and, I am sure, alert the police to their abandoned corpse. More time passes and an investigative team comes to dust him for fingerprints and remove all items from his pockets. Once their job is done, they also leave him alone. Two hours later, I gaze in wonder at my new neighbor lying in the warm sun, and decide we will not be taking a walk down the canal at this time. Several dogs and their walking companions have also discovered him and mayhem is breaking out across from our window. I can just imagine the switch board officer taking calls one after the other at each new discovery. “Did you know there is a dead man down here on the Fontanka?”, goes the question. “Yes sir, we are in the process of investigating his death, please do not touch the body.” Two and a half hours after his body is pulled out of our canal, the corpse is finally picked up by a city ambulance. That has to be a nice job. Life on the canal will never get boring!
Sometimes I forget I am living in a different country and different culture until I run across such instances as the above. Dignity in death is not part of the Russian culture. The only ones who care for you or about you after your spirit leaves your body is your family or friends. The police do not cover corpses and if you don’t get to the morgue by between 1 and 3 pm Monday through Friday you will not be able to claim your dead. We had one patient who died and her family had arranged a flight for the body back to the States. Unfortunately, the rude and very drunk morgue attendant refused to release the body as it was “after hours” on a Friday and it wouldn’t be till next Monday when they could pick up their relatives remains. The dignity for the living individual has never been a big part of this society as well. We see it in the policies set by this government. They are just beginning to get out from under the philosophy that the good of the one means nothing in comparison to the good of the many. Yet it was for the individual that Jesus died, and it is to the individual that we will minister.
With much Love in Him
Aaron, Ramona, Timothy, and Abigail