Sunday, February 28, 2010

Families

I met a remarkable person today, named Emmanuel. Raised in Paris of a Haitian family, he worked for the UN in crisis area from Burundi to Kosovo to East Timor. His sister told of his kindness to his many younger siblings, and his generosity and enterprise, organizing his own Olympics in a Parisian banlieu to which all neighborhood kids were invited, even the mean ones. A Cameroonian friend, who had his first tour with a UN mission at the same time as Emmanuel, described how 'Manu' had been the sophisticated petit-frère who taught him the meaning of the UN family - and how he had learned from him to love Haiti. An Italian friend described Emmanuel's love for his three daughters, and his pride when the eldest, Kofie, took a Haitian flag to bed with her...

I met the remarkable Emmanuel today even though - because - he is soon to be laid to rest, with two of his daughters, Kofie and Zenzie; they were killed in the earthquake in Haiti last month. His sister R is a friend of mine, and this evening we had a memorial gathering for him and his girls, joined by friends of R's and of his. (As we met here in Brooklyn, a larger group, including his widow and surviving daughter, gathered in a cathedral in New Zealand; we heard also about a hundred-strong gathering in his memory in Rwanda.) Emmanuel and his family spent last summer here in Brooklyn. The Italian friend spent the evening when Kofie made her father so happy by taking the flag to bed with her with them in Port-au-Prince, the day before the earthquake. Zenzie, Kofie and Emmanuel will be buried tomorrow in New Zealand.

I've heard tell of how people live on in the love, in the hearts, in the memories of others, but tonight I felt it, felt Emmanuel's generous spirit drawing us together into his big international family.

May he rest in peace, and Kofie and Zenzie. And all the others...

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