Thursday, December 1, 2011

She Flies With Her Own Wings

This week, Peace Corps Paraguay said goodbye to community economic development volunteer, Emily Balog.  Sunday morning, while traveling along Ruta 2, we lost her in a crash that took the life of one other and left her love in a coma.  The news of her passing has left our community in pieces.

In a celebration of her life, staff and volunteers from all over the country gathered to share the evening with a presentation from those of knew her best.  I did not have the honor of knowing Emily well.  Many of those in attendance only met her briefly, yet we mourn together.  Thousands of miles from home, we form a different sort of family.

When the time came to conclude the service, Emily’s best friend summoned her closing remarks and lifted a white dove from a cardboard box.  Intending to release it, she held up her hands and unfurled her fingers as to allow for flight.  The dove, however, had different plans.  The bird left her palms and promptly flew directly into a large glass window, tumbling to the ground.  In an exceptionally long, silent, and stunned moment, the bird stood dazed and subsequently shook out his feathers. 

Then, like a storm, came the laughter.  A contagious giggle that grew into roar and stayed to comfort us for the rest of the evening.  We feasted on biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, and sopa Paraguaya- the favorite foods of a North Carolina girl living in the heart of South America.  Some told stories, some listened.  The tears came back, but the giggles were never far behind.  And when he was ready, the dove stretched his wings and flew into the night.

It feels horribly wrong and unfair to get to know Emily under these circumstances.  And yet here we are.  Over and over, those closest to Emily say that she touched every person she met.  Her passing has not diminished this gift.  Through her example, we will become better volunteers.  We will honor her with our work.  We will remember her every day.

Our thoughts are with families Balog, Fern√°ndez Bogado, and Moreno.

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