From John: One of the most amazing moments of my life happened two days ago. While on the way to our stay at a Farm on the Limpopo River, we were approaching the lands where Robin lived when was at 8 years old. We had been driving for several miles on the dirt road from town with our host Vanessa Bristow. Robin was starting to recognize landmarks from her childhood: the black rocks, the orange-red soil, the acacia and boabab trees. As a result, she was becoming overwhelmed with gratitude that we were, at last, reaching our destination.
As we continued down the road I spotted a donkey cart approaching. On the donkey cart I saw Maemu, the woman who was interviewed by Vanessa last summer. Maemu remembers playing with Robin as a child when Robin was recovering from a gunshot that grazed her scalp. The major purpose of our trip here, of spending three solid days traveling, of launching a fundraiser that would make it possible to do this trip across the world was so that Robin could meet Maemu in person.
I looked in disbelief at the woman in the cart. “Is that Maemu?” I blurted. “Yes!” said Vanessa. We quickly did a u-turn as the donkey cart pulled to a halt. We all piled out of the car as I got my camera ready. At this point Robin had tears streaming down her face. Maemu stepped out of the cart, walked toward us and embraced Robin. The two of them remained in an embrace for several minutes. Maemu kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” to Robin as she rocked her gently back and forth meaning I am sorry you were hurt back then. Robin’s face was soaked with tears. She was stunned, speechless, and overjoyed.
After the initial embrace, Maemu put her hands on Robin’s head and began looking for the head wound that Robin suffered. She did it in such a gentle way. Her fingers lightly, carefully sorted through Robin’s hair as if she wanted to make sure Robin had healed properly.
After her brief inspection, Maemu embraced Robin again until my beautiful wife was able to recover from her overwhelm. Meanwhile, I completely stunned at this totally spontaneous meeting happening now before we had even arrived at our destination!
I have been working with Robin for 8 years to rediscover what happened to her when she was 8. How did she get to Africa? Where was she? Who did she spend time with? What happened to her village? How did she get back? Why did her mother tell her never to speak about it when she returned? Why did she pass out in her college African history class?
The sight of Maemu embracing Robin and picking through her hair to find Robin’s wound seemed to dissolve all other questions into a light of overwhelming gratitude and amazement. No one else knew the location of her wound. We never shared it with anyone in Africa. Maemu knew exactly where it was. Here we are, almost halfway across the world and in another hemisphere and we have made an amazing unplanned first connection with Robin and Maemu’s first meeting in 40 years. It was a stunning affirmation of the reality of Robin’s memory. She was in Africa. She was right here, right where are. We still have 12 days here in Zimbabwe before we go over to South Africa. This chance meeting was the start of tremendous healing and bringing her history full circle.
Vanessa made the comment that Robin and Maemu were connected like magnets. Vanessa said that she normally sees Maemu about every four years. She has said repeatedly that it is completely uncanny we would meet Maemu on the road as soon as we entered the area.
Thanks to everyone for supporting our journey. A miracle has taken place.