Five years ago today, I came to Africa for the first time. Over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about this impending anniversary, pondering what to say about it on my blog. I have many thoughts on the subject, but one thought keeps recurring: I can’t believe this all started just five years ago. That day — March 6, 2007 — feels like five lifetimes ago. I considered trying to recount what happened that day, and summarizing how it brought me to where I am now. But that would be the longest blog post ever written. Instead, I’m going to talk about Jon.
Yesterday I attended a special event for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). The event celebrated the end of an eight-year project — called Project HEART — that provided HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services in South Africa. I don’t want to go all technical on you and try to explain what Project HEART was. But if you’d like to learn more, visit this page on the EGPAF site. There’s a great video about Project HEART about halfway down the page. The EGPAF end-of-project event. Windowless hotel conference rooms aren’t the best places for photography, but here’s one of the few photos I’m happy with.
Photo: Susanna Mason Jon’s funeral was yesterday. I spoke at the service. It was really hard but I’m glad I did it. I can’t decide if posting my tribute on this blog is a weird thing to do or not. But I slept on it last night and decided that if blogging about Jon’s funeral makes me feel better, then I should bloody well do it. So…here it is.
I’m grateful that it’s sunny in Joburg on Christmas Day, even though the weather forecast predicted clouds and rain. I’m grateful that my sister flew here from America to be with me, and that she decided to stage an impromptu photo session in the aloe tree this morning. That was a really nice Christmas present. Here is a photo strip documenting the experience. Susanna climbs the tree.
Joe died yesterday. His real name was Jon. He was a gifted photographer. He was sensitive, intelligent, opinionated, and loyal. He had green-gold eyes and a mischievous smile. He was my best friend. We loved each other as much as two people are capable of loving. I can’t fathom a world without him in it. Jon was very troubled and very sick, especially in the weeks before he died. Life was a battle for him. Jon endured a lot of pain, and those of us who loved him endured it too. I’m relieved that he’s not suffering anymore.