Skip to main content

Grieving in the Peace Corps

The shock of death shakes those both near and far.

A few days ago, a very dear friend notified me that his brother - our brother - died in his sleep. Ben Leake was just a little older than myself.

You have to understand that this is no ordinary family. When I was finishing high school, my parents' relationship took a series of really bad turns that wounded my sister and I in radical ways and which drove me out of my parents' households for a time. I had already made best friends with Daniel Leake, and I knew his family well, but I could never have expected that they would reach out to me the way that they did. For that very troubling time in my life, the Leakes took me in as if I were another member of the family. I slept in Daniel and Ben's bedroom, in the attic of the big house on Broadway. My days were filled with shenanigans dreamt up by the three of us. We ate together, went to school together, played together; we tormented our poor English teacher, Mrs. Feil, and we tested the nerves of poor Marci Leake, who I think of as another mother.

Ben's unexpected death has left me in total shock. I want to be at his funeral. I want to see him one last time. More than anything, I want to be with the Leake family, my adopted family. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling trapped inside this country while my loved ones suffer grief and anguish. The sense of helplessness is profoundly paralyzing.

The hardest part of Peace Corps isn't adjusting to the language, wrestling with the culture, or coping with lowered sanitation standards. It's hearing of family trouble back at home or being unable to celebrate a friend's achievement or missing out on both of your parents' weddings or being forbidden to leave the country in order to mourn with loved ones at a friend's passing. Would that I could hop on a jet today and do what I really want to do, more than anything: to be present, to cry with the crying, to share hugs, and to celebrate Ben's life with the rest of the family.

I'll miss him terribly.


Ben loved going to the lake. This is him during a trip we took to Kanopolis.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Clink (New Friends)

Each other is all we have. It's no surprise, then, that when we think about the chapters of our lives, those chapters usually begin and end with the beginning and ending of relationships. My current chapter began in July 2016, when I made the move from Philadelphia to Denver. In many ways, it was the fulfillment of a promise made between Peace Corps friends; Carly, Evan, and I spoke often of our desire to live in the same place some day, and after two wonderful years spent with Kyla, it was time for me to join them.

The great advantage to this arrangement is that Evan and Carly had been cultivating friends in my absence, so upon my arrival last summer, I was met with a wonderful group of people who had been carefully conditioned by Evan and Carly to like me.

Readers of this blog will remember Evan and Carly from my Peace Corps days. They were the closest I had to family for two years, and by the end of our service, we were inseparable.


Evan

Pappy. Pop-pop. Dilly-dally. Evan is know…

Reaction to Dante's Hell as Portrayed in Dante's Inferno

Since its Patristic roots, the Church has struggled with two seemingly contradictory aspects of God's nature. One one hand, God is said to be loving and caring towards his creation. At the same time, however, God is seen as a judge, dealing out justice to all according to their actions. Some Christians have argued that God, due to his overabundance of love, can never punish or cause harm. Other Christians have no qualms in maintaining that a loving God sends people to Hell, even against their own will. Most fall in between these two extremes. I would maintain that Dante's view of punishment in Hell errs on the side of the latter extreme, given the assumption of a loving God as described in Christian literature. The God portrayed in Dante's Inferno punishes based on gross oversimplifications. His God ignores the larger picture of human psychology and sociological influences in addition to the rehabilitative capacities of wrongdoers.

Good parents do not punish their children …

Love in the Peace Corps

I joined the Peace Corps because I wanted to connect with the rest of the world, to see life from the perspective of the oppressed, to spread joy and wonder and curiosity to new places. I did not join, in other words, to find a girlfriend.
Why was it then, that as soon as I walked into my hotel in Philadelphia, I felt like a college freshman? I couldn't get through my first elevator ride without my heart-rate increasing and my breath shortening.
The feeling returned during our introductory meetings: the nervousness, the flurry of disordered thinking that accompanied moments of eye contact.
Damn you, body. Why must you sabotage everything good in this world?
I talked this over with my friend Ted on day one in Morocco. I was prepared for the bugs and dirt and cultural difficulties that come with Peace Corps, but nothing could prepare me for the onslaught of charming, independent-minded, attractive girls that I would be meeting throughout those first weeks. He agreed. It was eerie how ma…