Being back in Dublin for a couple of weeks at the beginning of December was wonderful…but as always, far too short. We had Christmas celebrations early and our whole family was together for the first time in ages. We got back to Kijabe the week before Christmas, in time for Mike to relieve the 2 Kenyan Ortho Doctors so that they could travel home for the holidays. Christmas day arrived, the turkey was cooked, friends (old and new) gathered, gifts were opened, and the sun was blistering! I’ll never quite get used to a hot Christmas; it’s just not right!
All Jane wanted for Christmas was to adopt an elephant from the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, in Nairobi. She picked out a 7-month old orphan, named Murit, who had been found stuck down a deep well. Some local tribesmen had alerted the orphanage and a plane was soon dispatched with a team to go and rescue him. When the team arrived, there was no sign of Murit’s family. No-one knew how long he had been in the well but he had a raging bacterial infection due to ingesting infected water. He was flown back to the orphanage, put on antibiotics, and Jane got to visit him for the first time, last weekend. When we arrived, he has just had his bed-time bottle and promptly fell into a deep slumber, under his blanket, snoring quietly. It was about the cutest thing I had ever seen and Jane was beside herself with excitement!
As for the awards part of this blog…now I get to brag a little on Mike! Back in 8th or 9th grade, Mike happened across the writings of Dr. Thomas Dooley. Thomas Dooley was a medical doctor, from the US, who spent many years in South East Asia, providing medical care to those most in need. This captured Mike’s attention as a young child and inspired him to pursue a career in medicine. Dr. Dooley was a graduate from Notre Dame (where Mike attended and got his under-graduate degree) and is memorialized at the University of Notre Dame’s Grotto of Our Lady, with a statue as well as an engraved copy of a letter he wrote to former Notre Dame president Ted Hesburgh. In his memory, every year, the Dr. Thomas A. Dooley Award is conferred by Notre Dame on an alumnus/alumna (living or deceased) who has exhibited outstanding service to humankind. Mike’s name was put forward last year as a proposed recipient and he was chosen by the committee to receive the award for 2014.
Besides this being a huge honor for him, it is truly significant to Mike and his family. Not only is this the individual who inspired Mike to become a doctor in the first place, but Notre Dame is near and dear to the entire Mara clan! Mike’s own father graduated from Notre Dame and he and Sue practically made it their full-time jobs to ensure that all of their children would go to college also. Mike flew out to the US on Sunday and this week, his five sisters are all traveling to see him receive this award, to help him celebrate, and to honor their parents for making such sacrifices on their behalf. How Lee and Sue would have been so very proud, not only of Mike, but of all their kids. All six Mara kids are hard-working professionals, each with drive and perseverance, and big personalties to match…gifts, I believe, bestowed upon them by their parents.
The following is an excerpt from the letter that Thomas Dooley wrote to the former president of Notre Dame, on his deathbed…
“It has become pretty definite that the cancer has spread to the lumbar vertebrae, accounting for all of the back problems over the last two months. I have monstrous phantoms . . . as all men do. But I try to exorcise them with all the fury of the middle ages. And inside and outside the wind blows.
But when the time comes, like now, then the storm around me does not matter. The winds within do not matter. Nothing human or earthly can touch me. A wilder storm of peace gathers in my heart. What seems unpossessable I can possess. What seems unfathomable, I fathom. What is unutterable, I utter. Because I can pray. I can communicate. How do people endure anything on earth if they cannot have God?”
That is certainly the kind of faith I aspire to having…a wilder storm of peace within…available to all who ask…freely given…light and sustenance…an anchor to cling to in good times and in bad.
This is the first time in 14 years that Mike and I have not celebrated our birthdays together, but in my opinion, there could not be a better reason for us to be apart today…