It was on a whim that I entered the gardens.
Did memories beckon me? As a 7-year-old I had toured the McLaughlin estate and mansion. Between that little girl and who I am today there have been many countries, many gardens, and many flowers.
But if I have changed, the high green wooden fences have not. So I entered.
I found the bark and the bushes. The same rose garden and fountain. I found a bed of bright coloured flowers rising above their cheerful marigold companions. That one riot of colour was an immediate hearkening back to Uganda.
I could see it: those exact same flowers. But this time in four raised beds, clouded with butterflies.
It was the day my family drove far on bumpy red roads to the home of a German missionary. Memory blurs: was it that same day that we saw where our friends had been killed? I remember the gutted charcoal shells of brick homes. They had belonged to a missionary couple and some Ugandan Christians. People – rebels? – had murdered them and burned their homes.
Mom had shown me a small, black-and-white newspaper clipping of the faces of the couple. The tiny print underneath strung a description of their brutal death to a testimony to the goodness of God. Mom told me they had been our friends.
I saw the blackened walls and the black-and-white faces. The walls were dishevelled. The faces were smiling.
Then we arrived at the home of flowers and butterflies, haloed by a golden dying sun.
The German missionary had been told to leave. It wasn’t safe. She didn’t budge. She stayed because of a stream of people who came, under the mango trees. Was she a teacher? a doctor? I don’t remember. But she stayed, her home a riot of floral and butterfly colour, for those people. Soldiers slept on her front porch every night, as a measure of protection.
We were told to conserve water. I remember how triumphant I was to discover I could have a full-body bath with less than one cup. The water was a deep, deep red from the dust of the road.
That lady – whose name is lost in my mind – she offered us homemade food and her limited water. She offered hospitality, joking about the armed men under our windows.
Walking in downtown Oshawa on a Summer day, among flowers, I remember her. I remember the bricks, the burning, the black-and-white, the butterflies. In my memory the German missionary merges with the dead couple. They had died for their friends and for Christ, and she was living for the people around her and for Christ.
I knew that if she died she too would be announced in monotonal newspaper print. But in my mind she still lives at the end of a long dusty road, surrounded by people and butterflies.
Images taken from Google.