working through tragedy: a week later

by Kayla Raymond

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I took the picture above with Webert over five years ago. I had just spent my spring break in Haiti and was on my way to the airport when we took this picture. At the time, I had just broken up with my boyfriend of five years and had no idea what my future looked like. At the time, Webert was teaching 160-some students in a palette-constructed school. We had spent the week repairing the tarp roof, hoping it would hold through the rainy season. We were just friends at the time. Every Thursday he would go to a local Internet café and e-mail me while I was in class at university thousands of miles away.

When I look at this picture, I see an overweight Me, who was so naïve and had no idea what God was about to do in her life. I see an innocent Webert, who had yet to steal my heart.

This was before the mountaintop. Before kids. Before Touch of Hope. Before Tytoo Gardens orphanage. Before hardship and tragedy. At this point in our relationship, we had formed a friendship over painting a house, buying pineapples at the local market and playing cards together.

We took this picture on the front porch of what has become our home. At the time of the first picture, to me, it was just my parents’ Haiti house. But, over the course of five years, it has become a house that Webert and I now raise our kids in; where we welcome our community in; and where we allow people to ask for their deepest needs. I sit on the front porch most mornings and that’s where God meets me. At night, we come to this home exhausted and it becomes our safe sanctuary. This house on the ocean has become our home. And, on the front porch is where we take all of our cliché pictures. Everyone who comes to visit takes a picture there. Whenever aunt Megan comes to visit, she’s sure to get a picture there with the three kids. There have been so many Sunday mornings when I snap pictures as we head off to church with our Sunday best on.

This morning Webert and I matched, so we decided to take a picture on the porch in the typical corner. I looked at this picture all through church and tears welled in my eyes. It’s hard to believe all that has happened from the first picture to the one we took today.

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Last Sunday was probably one of the hardest days Webert and I took on together. We left our bed at 3 in the morning to bring Renato home from the hospital. I broke the news to orphanage mommmies, the women who cared for Renato like he was their own, as Webert found a judge to make a death certificate. We led an orphanage tribe through a prayer service to say good-bye to Renato. Webert prayed as I held weeping young boys in my arms. We led so naturally. It’s kind of weird actually how we can make decisions together so quickly in emergency situations and act upon those decisions and somehow come through the emergencies stronger. By the day’s end last Sunday, I realized how we were just meant to do this all together.

And a week later, we stand together, snapping another picture different people. Different, but stronger.

I look at the two people in this picture and I’m proud of them. I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else. We’re 11 weeks away from meeting our baby girl and I can’t wait to see how this little one will change our lives again.


Today, I cried for Renato. I wasn’t responsible to lead today, so I sat back and grieved. It’s still hard to believe he’s really gone. It’s hard to understand why God chose to take Him the way He did. It’s hard to know we won’t ever know what illness took him from us to quickly. It’s just hard.

The children at Tytoo seem to be doing well. Monday morning we took time to write letters and color pictures to give to Renato. We took all the kids to his grave and buried our letters and pictures next to his grave. Two of the older boys played their guitars as we sent lanterns to heaven for Renato. Over the week, we’ve prayed for wisdom to have the eyes to see which kids are struggling and have been able to spend one-on-one time with some of the kids who seem to be struggling the most. Our Haitian nurse has been able to answer some of their questions. Last night, Saturday, all the kids came over to our house for a bonfire and we introduced them to the phenomena of a s’more. We showed a movie on the sidewall, as they all stretched out blankets on the yard to watch. It felt good to do something fun and create good memories together.

We’re all grieving together. We’re all moving forward together. We all experienced a tragedy last week, but together we are fighting through.

I feel different today. My soul feels old. But, I feel stronger as well.

As always, love from Haiti.

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