Africa: The Path That Led Me There

Thirty hours after leaving home in Brisbane, Australia, my sister, myself and three children between us arrived at my Dad’s house in Lesotho, Africa. (Insert sleep here). I woke in a strange bed to a quiet house; the children had already gone to the orphanage.  I joined them later, and I wandered through the lovely surroundings until I found my daughters.   The next moment is one etched on my being: I put my head through the doorway and I saw my two eldest girls — a bowl and spoon in hand — each with a small child in front of them, helping with the lunch-time feeding routine.  The pride I felt that these two children of mine, in this moment, was overwhelming and I treasure it closely.

corn row braids

Beautiful Gate is the name of this place: an orphanage providing residential and medical care to abandoned, HIV/AIDS affected orphaned and vulnerable children aged 0 – 5 years.  The path that brought me to this gate started seven years ago.  I didn’t know the road would lead me here at the time; I didn’t even see a path because the fog was so dense and the growth so thick.  Seven years ago, my mother died.  I was 26; she 51.  And so I began a new road without her in my life.

This is my Dad.  His path veered too; more sharply than mine.  My father is one of the most driven, efficient and passionate people I have ever met.  Always on a mission,  he’s an action man; a doer. When my mum died, he was utterly shattered.

beautiful gate

Shortly after my mother died, my dad went to Africa, to a land-locked mountainous kingdom called Lesotho.  A door opened for my Dad — an opportunity — and it made sense for him to have a focus during the time of such haze. In some ways, at the time, it felt like I lost both my mum and dad; both gone. But now, as I look back, I only see graciousness in the path that was opened to him, knowing my Dad as I do.  In the over 6 years volunteering in Lesotho, he built much of the extended orphanage and created an oasis for the children and staff there (including planting grass: a rarity in this area).

{The outskirts of Maseru, Lesotho}

beautiful gate, lesotho

Beautiful Gate is an oasis. Literally. Absolutely incredible, and I feel so proud! My Dad’s story is not mine to tell this day. However, paths: they merge, and weave, and cross at intersection points. This is my story.

When my mum died, my faith was not shaken — no — but I needed to ask the questions that have no obvious answers. I had to expose foundations, to test many things that are easy to hold when situations are steady. After questions, and less answers; after examining and holding beliefs to the light, I came back to the same truth I have always known deep in my make-up.  That God can, and will bring good out of hard, hard things.  I believed it then. I believe it now. Not in ignorance or blind faith; neither through one-liner sentiments or false comfort.  There’s no motivation for merit or reward here. It’s a response: Word, faith, choice, and evidence of things unseen.  But this post isn’t about theology or religion. It’s about hope. It’s about a path.

A path, seven years in the making, that led me to a gate.  A gate that led me to a moment, when I saw my children’s heart that etched my own.  A moment that led me to a garden.

beautiful gate

When my sister and I planned this trip, I said to her, “It’s become important for me to see the garden with my own eyes.”  She understood. Within the gates, with the sound from dozens of children playing in the background, there is a circle garden.  This garden is for my Mum.  I stood there and looked at her still young and beautiful face imprinted on the porcelain plaque with words declaring this garden a dedication to her life.

The circle garden is filled with empty roses. I lapse into present tense because I see it in my head right now. No, I don’t see it, I feel it like I am there again in that poignant moment.  The circle garden is filled with empty roses. Roses are — were — her favourite flower. The air is cold and I adjust my red beanie over my ears. I stare at the empty roses. There is no glorious garden before me. I see earth, and sticks, and thorns…But that’s because it’s Winter time.

Oh, the beauty in front of me; what I see! All the promise of Spring to come! Promise of warmth, and of light, and of colour, and of beauty; all held tightly within the barren sticks.  If my mother had not left this world when she did, I would not be here, I thought to myself, allowing the realisation to course through me.  I would not be here and there would be no flowers to bloom; there would no be grass underneath my feet where I stand. Good, good things overwhelm me.  A most beautiful thing. A very most beautiful thing.

beautiful gate

In as much as my father is passionate and driven, my mother was compassionate and kind. And to see this live on, I see as a testament to love, to hope, to beauty, to good, to God.  I saw it in the children’s white smiles. I heard it in the laughter.  The gardens declared it! Tears well in my eyes as I finish this post. But it’s not of sadness. I feel happy. So happy. Because: hope abounds.

beautiful gate

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

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  1. Terri McNamara says

    Kelly, I believe that your mum would be very proud of both you and your dad (her mate). Bless you and your family.

  2. Kerrianne Sheppard says

    Absolutely beautiful Kelly. I have shared similar stories with one of your sisters and she encouraged me greatly after the sudden passing of my mum. I hope, one day, I’ll be happy and hopeful once again. Thank you for this encouragement.

  3. Wendy says

    There are no words Kelly. This was such a beautiful post to read. Your mother obviously possessed much love and grace for your father to dedicate so much time, effort and love into this project, all in her name. What a wonderful way to honour somebody you love. xx

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