Thursday, April 14, 2011

#37 Post Zeke, daily grind

First of all, we’d like to thank everybody for the kind words of support we have received. We’re still getting several emails a day, everything from quick notes to personal testimonies. To those of you who have lost children after spending months and years raising them... I have no words. Continuing on takes a strength that few possess and I’m humbled by you.

We’re still trying to make sense of it all. We’ve heard all the explanations (from God killed him to stop him from becoming a murderous thief to... well... to better, more comforting explanations). We’ve gone through numerous stages of grieving. Piece by piece, we’ve started to put back together our house and put away painful memories and leave happy memories to be revisited in the future. We are able to smile, laugh and joke again.

Zeke’s clothes (really Lyol’s hand-me-downs), Zeke’s pacifiers, Zeke’s swaddling cloths (which he loved, despite the heat), Zeke’s bottles, Zeke’s formula and Zeke’s diapers have all been put away, ready for the next child we fall in love with, biological or otherwise. Zeke’s baby footprints (made posthumously) rest on the dresser. I keep thinking that I will move the toy chest, since it’s the first thing I see every day when I walk into the house, and it’s also the place Zeke spent most of his final morning. Zeke’s picture slideshow is all ready on our computer for anybody willing to take the time to get to know him. Our eyes still well up frequently, but the tears don’t overflow multiple times a day anymore. It still hurts to see babies.

Lying in bed this morning, I realized it’s been one week today since Zeke died. Although nobody has demanded it of us, we feel an update is appropriate.

The week has flown by instead of crawling, helping us to put some emotional distance between us and Zeke’s death. Gary and Wendy Roberts are the ones mostly responsible for that.

Gary and Wendy brought us ‘Olive Garden’ the night after Zeke died (homemade, there’s not actually any restaurants here). Pasta and salad. It was wonderful. Gary is a pilot for Adventist Medical Aviation just a couple kilometers down the road. Gary had to fly to Zakouma Wildlife Refuge on Friday, two days after Zeke’s death. He had a job there to work on an airplane.

Thursday, the day after Zeke died, Danae and I went to work and told the staff that we would be gone for the next three days. After working a full day Thursday (to make up for not working at all on Wednesday), we took off at 8AM Friday for Zakouma, about a three hour flight away.

Friday, Sabbath and Sunday, we had a four-wheel-drive car at our disposal to tool around the game park anywhere and at anytime. Gary was our tour guide and we saw lions, elephants, giraffe, antelope, buffalo, birds, crocodiles, warthogs and everything in between. It was wonderful.

Monday morning we flew home and started work at noon. By now we’ve caught up with all we missed at the hospital, and it’s back to the daily grind.

However, I remember why I’m here. I’m at my dream job. I have my dream wife. I have a wonderful son. And I had the opportunity to get to know another son. My wife will soon deliver what we believe to be another healthy child. Life is good. God is good. All the time.

Please hug and kiss your children tonight. Once for me and a million times for yourself.

The following is nothing that I wrote, but was given to me by one of my most deeply cherished friends and confidants:

“I love elephants. I love their ability for compassion and empathy. When a member of their community is ill, they patiently wait for them to heal. When one is falling behind, they all slow down so their lagging member can catch up. And when a mother elephant loses her baby, they stand in a circle around her and allow her all the time she needs to grieve and mourn. They don't hurry her along, or push her to abandon the body. They stand in a circle and gently touch her with their trunks, a silent show of unwavering support.

“Elephant mothers will stand with their babies for weeks, not eating or drinking, just holding them close and letting the reality that they are gone slowly settle in. And they are allowed that time by their family members.

“We don't do that. Humans I mean. We do not rally around the bereaved, or allow the members of our community to mourn on their own time. We push, we prod, we offer helpful statements like ‘it must not have been God’s will’ or ‘things happen for a reason.’ Grief is like some embarrassing condition - a cold sore or an unseemly rash - and we hasten to hide it from view.

“In this time of heartbreak - for I am heartbroken, even as I start to crawl from the wreckage and accept the fact that this whole process did not, somehow, manage to kill me - all I want is for the people in my life to stand around me and put their hands on my back, and let me take the time to heal. I begin to realize we are not, as a society, capable of such a thing.

“Parents and elephants never forget...and I will try to remember how this feels the next time someone in my life has suffered a loss. I will try to be the circle of support they need.”

You are my elephants.

We are receiving many offers of financial support. At this time, it’s hard to think of money and projects and everything else. Furthermore, we’re frankly a little creeped out at the thought of benefiting from Zeke’s death like this. Perhaps after a little time, we will put together a list of projects. We don’t want people to lose that generous spirit, but... well, we feel icky about receiving money due to the loss of Zeke (even if it benefits the hospital, and not us personally).

For the time being...

You will notice on our blog,, that we have a link for donations. This is through Adventist Health International’s website. We believe strongly in the mission of AHI. We feel that AHI is an organization worth supporting. By donating through AHI, you can be reassured that there is a strong measure of accountability following your donation. Just mark the donation for ‘Bere.’ And remember that your gift is 100% tax-deductible.
Olen Tigo: +235 98 07 46 28
Olen Zain: +235 62 16 04 93
Danae Tigo: +235 98 07 46 27
Danae Zain: +235 62 17 04 80
Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hopital Adventiste de Bere
52 Boite Postale
Kelo, Tchad
Volunteers Welcome!!!


  1. I love you. I hate this. HUGS.

  2. You are in our thoughts and prayers every single day. We so admire what you two are doing and cannot even imagine how difficult it is. I don't think there is a good reason why Zeke didn't make it, it's just that we live in this sinful broken world where bad things just happen but someday God will put everything right. Much love to all of you.

  3. Olen: you probably don't remember me. I went to school with Kristin at HVA (my maiden name was Minner). Anyway. My heart goes out to you right now, and you are in my prayers. My husband and I lost 2 of our 3 triplet daughters after their premature birth, 17 months ago. I know that your pain is deep and profound and, although its acuity will ease with time, it will never be gone. And I know that there is nothing else in the world that can be of comfort except for the reminder that we will all be reunited someday, very soon, for an eternity of togetherness, pain-free lives, and joy. Much love to you and your wife.

  4. Anne Sluppick (co-worker of Marcus Mullins)April 17, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    I too lost a son, Patrick is his name, he passed away 02/19/2003. He was 25 years old, I wasn't there to hold him, tell him goodbye for now or see him one last time.
    Yes, we survive, we go on but a piece of us will forever be broken. We are not to question, we know not the reason, but with our faith and love around us we continue on.
    Grief is like an ocean to me, it comes like the waves hitting the shore. You never know if the wave will be a big one or just a small one but it will come. And then the pain recedes again just like the water from the wave on the beach. There will be another wave come in and go out forever, sometimes strong and powerful, pulling at your heart and other soft and lapping but still tugging slightly on your heart.
    God bless you both and your extended families and friends, hang on to God's love and knowing that someday you will be reunited again with Zeke.

  5. At Mission Institute I only began to know you guys.... but through your blog I am learning who you really are. I had no idea..... Your stories have me rivoted and I find myself reading for over an hour at a time. I've just discovered your blog's. It makes our lives in Indonesia seem tame and dull, though God is doing exciting things here too. Love your honesty and just true emotions. I can so relate to blogs being our "psyc visit". It's why I write too. Your hearts are beautiful. I keep thinking of Danae the "compassionate" women. Wow. Prayers. Strength. Blessings.