in honor of the birthday

by Kayla Raymond

“How you live your days, is how you life your life.” – Crazy Love by Francis Chan

It’s the eve to my 26th birthday and I really can’t believe it.

For 9,489 days I have been alive now. A lot of those days have been marvelous. Quite a few of them have been disastrous, as I have tried to figure out how to be a human. But, here I am on the eve of my birthday, fully alive. And that’s something to shout about.

Today was full of responsibilities. Responsibilities, as it turns out, are not all they are cracked up to be. I remember a day in my youth when all I wanted was responsibility, because with responsibility came a driver’s license, a new cell phone, later curfews and boyfriends. If only older version me could have told younger version me that responsibility also means changing dirty diapers, paying for health insurance, and having to buy toilet paper (side note: I believe the universe should just bless us humans with toilet paper, it’s such a waste of money!)

And on the eve of my 26th birthday, I wanted to curl my hair. I wanted to feel put together – you don’t get to feel that way in Hait, btw. But, since my husband was busy with school responsibilities I had to get all three of my children ready for school all by myself. Single mamas and papas, bless you, seriously. This is a serious task.

Loveson had a meltdown because he couldn’t find his toothbrush. Jeffte could not locate his uniform shirt, alone and behold it was sitting on his bed the entire time. And Wishla was just being herself, which means you are already sweating. Sweating at 7:30 in the morning, when all you want is to feel put together is not an encouraging start to the day.

So, I didn’t get to curl my hair, but we made it out of the door in one piece – minus the bright red Kool-Aid stain on my brand new white shirt. Thank you Wishla.

I made my forty-five minute commute to work and fell into the routine. While there were some stressful clients I had to deal with, it’s safe to say that I love my job. Turns out some responsibilities can fill you up with dignity and self-worth. Good stuff.

My afternoon was filled with running errands. Turns out these responsibilities are not always fun. If anyone out there enjoys grocery shopping, there is a job opening here for you in Haiti! Official grocery shopper for the Raymond clan.

Today, I also found out my sweet Haitian sister-in-law had another miscarriage. Her third one, in fact. Her and her husband have been married for two short years and have gone through this three times. They work hard, serve the Lord and want a baby. I don’t understand why the Lord won’t give them one. You can be sure these will be the type of things I talk with God about on judgment day.

It’s the eve of my 26th birthday and the responsibilities of feeding the little ones who I am trying to raise; responsibilities of work and errands and being pulled in lots of directions and the responsibilities of taking care of the hurting carry a heavy load today. I wonder which day of my life was it exactly that led me to this life? This family? This adventure? This calling?

But, of course, it wasn’t a specific day I tell myself. This life has been full of days that have turned into years, which have turned into one grand story. How incredibly blessed I am by these responsibilities.

Grocery shopping may be lame, but it means my family eats. Driving around doing errands may suck – especially in Port-au-Prince, Haiti – but it means I have a car and the ability to travel. Dealing with e-mails, work and clients may be overwhelming, but it means I have a job that provides for my family and if I do a good enough job at my job more parents will be able to provide for their families as well. And now that I am turning 26, I will have to start paying for my own health insurance, which is really just going to cramp my style. But health insurance guarantees me health care if my body decides to go crazy.

Two small rants on this whole health insurance issue: first, my boss, Shelley at Papillon Enterprise was diagnosed with stage one cervical cancer this past July. She has now – praise Jesus – made a full recovery, but at the time of the diagnosis it was scary. Because of health insurance, she was able to have a full hysterectomy in Miami, which removed all of the cancer. A robot performed the hysterectomy, because that’s how America does things. On her trip back to Haiti, she came across an article in a magazine about cervical cancer being the number one killer of women in Haiti. Enter goose bumps. Cervical cancer is almost entirely treatable in the United States, but is an epidemic in Haiti. 700 miles away from robotic surgeries, cervical cancer continues to destroy and take lives.

This past week Shelley visited one of the only hospitals in the country that offers cancer treatment. They were not only mixing the chemo by hand, but Shelley told me the recliners were all broken. Only 120 people are actively in this program, as well. So out of 10 million people on a little Caribbean island, only 120 people are actively seeking cancer treatment with hand mixed chemo. And while the drugs run through their veins, they don’t even sit comfortably.

This is our world.

Even worst, my Haitian sister Viola had a miscarriage late in the night. At 9 a.m. the following morning three members from the community headed to the hospital to donate blood for her. At 7 p.m. tonight, Viola had still not received the blood. Why? We have absolutely no idea, except that we are in Haiti.

In Half the Sky, they state, “childbirth remains deadly as ever, with one maternal death every minute. Some 99 percent of those deaths happen in poor countries.”

I realize, Viola has a very slim chance of passing away, but these statistics hit home when the one you love can’t get a blood transfusion when having a miscarriage.

You feel responsible when the ones you love, the ones you live in community with and the ones you care about are out there without access to what they need. Whatever it may be: food, health care, education, Jesus…you feel responsible.

And just like that, the responsibilities carry a lot of weight again.

But these responsibilities keep me real. They keep me alive. They keep me loving hard. They keep me struggling with real life stuff. They keep me aware of the world and of humankind. The suffering keeps me raw. The hardness keeps me honest.

And on the eve of my birthday day, I’m grateful for these heavy responsibilities. I like to believe they have given me the greatest gift in life, because, quite literally, they’ve taught me life. What a shame it would be to be walking through this life comfortable, in a bubble, unaware of humans and without the responsibility to leave this world a better place. The hard has made the life good.

So, as I turn 26, I’m grateful for where these days of life have led me. And, my prayers are for the future days that turn into years are easy on this soul of mine, but that they remain hard as well. May I take on my responsibilities with grace and gratefulness. And most importantly, have some fun doing it.

Love from Haiti.

P.S. my daughter just threw a cracker in my face and Jeffte just walked out of his room crying because Loveson kicked him in the face. Wishla is also fashionably naked. Motherhood responsibilities are so awesome. Enter sarcasm.

P.S.S. tomorrow is my birthday! Gifts can be sent in a glass bottle across the ocean or left on mother Renae’s doorstep in Iowa 🙂

Half the Sky is an incredible book if you are wanting to learn more about the oppression of women in our modern day world and the many struggles women in third world countries face.