Saturday, July 02, 2011


You know that feeling when you're going down a hill really fast—maybe in a car or roller coaster—and then you reach the bottom of the hill and and feel, just for a moment, right before you start to go back up, that the world has stopped working?

Your stomach jumps up into your chest and it seems as though gravity is letting you spin off the earth and everything is just... uncontrollably standing still. Just for a moment. You know that it's only happening to you—and those in the car with you—and that everyone else feels perfectly normal...but how can they?

How is it that the cows in the field aren't floating away when you feel so close to being out of control yourself? And why aren't everyone's hands white from gripping onto the nearest handhold so tightly?

That's how I felt on Wednesday, only I wasn't on a roller coaster or in a car zooming down a hill. Instead I got a message from my friend Catharine with a link to a news article and two words: Nacia's brother.

The title of the article?

Crews recover teen's body from Deer Creek reservoir. 

That's all it took for my world to stop spinning and my stomach to jump into my chest.

Kalem isn't my brother; I have never even met Kalem.

But Nacia is my sister, so Kalem is my brother.

There is something special about the branch in Cairo. Something about all of us being so far away from home and family that made us family.

Nacia was always up for an adventure around Cairo—to Garbage City or the nearest (or farthest) local market or the Red Sea or Helwan or...anywhere. And she was so helpful with Rachel and Miriam—she'd come over just to tell Rachel stories or to hold Miriam so I could sweep my ever-hopelessly dusty floor. We cooked together, ate together, camped together, swam together, talked together, planned together, explored together.

I would certainly say that we are Sisters in Zion.

We went to the public viewing for Kalem yesterday. He must have been an amazing kid because we waited in the chapel for fifty minutes before we were able to go stand in line to go into the viewing room. The chapel was continuously packed. It was obvious that he had touched the life of many for good, and all those people came by to say goodbye. Our poor girls were a little anxious noisy and wiggly...after sitting so quietly (and squirting applesauce all over the place/making paper cranes noisily out of receipts/screaming random words/playing I Spy/"colouring" on Andrew's iPod/rearranging all the hymnbooks in our pew several times/throwing the contents of the diaper bag at the girls beside us/whatever) so we were very glad to see that Nacia wasn't in the viewing room but in the hallway. We left our place in line to talk to her. After all, she's why we were there.

I didn't think I'd cry. But Nacia started crying when she saw us and so then I cried and she cried and we hugged for a long time and talked even longer. She told us about her brother and how amazing he was. We talked about school and work and what a blessing it was that she was able to find a flight home so quickly (she lives in DC now). We talked about Cairo and the gospel and about Kalem some more.

And do you know what? Nacia's amazing. Her whole family is. Somehow, they're going to get through this. I don't know how because I'm not quite in their shoes. My world stopped spinning just the same, so I know I share a little of Nacia's family's grief, although I know I don't (and hope I won't ever have to) completely understand. Luckily, the Savior completely understands and he will help them through it.

After saying goodbye to Nacia, we cut in front of the whole line of people to sneak in to view her brother and give our condolences to her parents; I almost felt bad about doing that but then I remembered that all of those people had already spent the past hour tolerating our rambunctious children and thought it would be less of a burden for them if we cut in line than if we stood in line trying to make our children behave for another twenty minutes.

Hopefully the next time we see Nacia it will be under happier circumstances.

As she said, she'll never forget her brother—how could she?—but she will find comfort and peace. After all, that moment that the world seems to stop working doesn't last forever. Eventually Nacia will make it to the top of the next hill. And the view from there is beautiful. I know it is.

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