On October 12 I arrived in Phuket, Thailand, for a little pre-trip rest, acclimation, and a chance to get over jet lag. It was me, my sister, my brother in law, and our friend Praise, who was a bridesmaid in Rachel’s wedding.
We spent a few days together, enjoying the beaches, exploring the tiny island, and sampling some strange delicacies. I was reminded of Praise’s wonderful heart and ceaselessly loving personality. Even though it rained through our whole stay, she brought joyfulness to those overcast days. A few days later she flew to Singapore to spend some time with her father and brother, and then went home to California.
Searching my inbox for her name is surreal. E-mails dated just a week ago alert me about comments she’s left on Facebook videos, her laughing at my pictures of the kids from the resource center … everything was normal. Then, e-mails marked just a few days later notify me of her trips to the hospital, friends searching desperately for anyone who could help the doctors figure out the cause, and finally, a message letting us all know what happened. I have this snapshot of the past week, this timeline, all in one window, and from this vantage point it’s shocking to see just how sudden the shift was.
This was just a few days ago that we found out, when Rachel, Kevin and I were staying at a hotel in Bangkok. The early morning phone call hit us all like a freight train. Rachel had looked up information about her viral infection the night before, but we passed it off thinking, “She has good doctors, she’s young, she’s a healthy person … I’m sure she’ll recover.” As I write this, I’m still in utter disbelief. Perhaps partly because we’re half a world away from her grieving friends who are reminiscing and planning the memorial service. It doesn’t seem possible that this is something that could occur within our sphere of existence.
I wish I could say more about my reaction to this, my feelings, or a more insightful reflection. But the truth is that none of it is real to me yet. I wish I had more insight, but I’m at a loss for what to say. I don’t know if it will eventually hit me, or if I just need time to process, or if it will always feel like something that happened in a bad dream.
Without hyperbole, I can confidently say that Praise was perhaps the sweetest, most loving, and most genuine person of anyone I’ve known. The world suffered a great loss with her passing, and her life was a blessing to all who knew her. Please keep her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to process this, to mourn, and to go through the hardest of their grieving in the coming weeks. May they find strength and peace.