Sunday, December 11, 2005

“Look, heaven is crying . . .”

Abbie, 11/20/05, 1 week and 1 day after her 2nd surgery

On December 8, 2005, at 3 p.m., Abbie Nallo’s pain and struggle finally ended. She was a beautiful young woman who, for almost 2 years, has courageously been struggling to live. She was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma (a kind of cancer) while in Monrovia, Liberia. However, treatment was unavailable there, so she was advised to come to Ghana for her treatment. An SMA father, who has known Abbie and her family for years, was able to raise the bulk of the money needed for her operation, chemo and radiotherapy. He got the money to me and I was able to help with the process over the past year and a half. Her chemo ended this past August, and within a week or two, the cancer had already visibly returned. The father was once again able to help raise money needed for another operation, which this time also required removing one of her breasts, and for the necessary follow-up treatment.

Abbie was close to God until the end. They had a very personal, trusting, loving relationship. She was struggling, in pain and extremely weak. But, she felt God with her throughout the struggle. She continued to have powerful faith, hope and courage. In the hour+ car rides to the clinic to have her dressing changed she was constantly moaning, in constant pain and discomfort. Yet at the same time, she was in conversation with God. I feel blessed and privileged to have had the chance to know her, to have had her in my life for this time.

Some friends in Accra had been letting Abbie stay with them following her surgery, in spite of the stench of the cancer consuming her body, which became stronger and stronger, overpowering everything else as time went on. Abbie brought out the love from these women, in spite of the physical discomforts they needed to endure as a result.

Abbie’s Aunty has her own family, but was staying by Abbie’s side, which was not easy on a number of levels. There was constant moaning. There was coughing. There was vomiting. There were many sleepless nights. There were clothes and bedsheets constantly in need of serious scrubbing due to the body fluids continuously leaking from Abbie's body. And there was that smell/stench/etc. emanating from her. But the Aunty’s love was there

She was surrounded by love – and she shared her love, thinking of others even throughout the moans, nausea, weakness and stench coming from her rotting, cancer-ridden body. The past few weeks were filled with this contrast of beauty and horror. On her last day she proved to her Aunty that she was strong enough to walk to the bathroom. This was the only way the Aunty would leave for 2 days to attend the graduation of her own two children. I was on my way to the clinic, when, shortly after the Aunty had left Abbie, I received a call from the clinic that Abbie was now at peace.

I waited for a few of her friends from Accra to show up at the clinic, and then I helped to put her body into the back of the pickup truck I use for my work. As I left to take her body to the morgue (it’s the family’s responsibility to do a lot of these things – and I was acting on their behalf) from the clinic where she’d been admitted for her last few days, even the hospital staff was outside crying.

But Abbie was at peace. Her struggle, her fight was over. As we were driving to the morgue (about a 45 minute drive), an unusual rain for this time of year came pouring down, and Jeannie (another lay missionary who was going with me to visit Abbie that day and remained with me when I heard the news) said, “Look, heaven is crying.”

It’s sad to think of the terrible struggle she’d been through, especially in the past 4 months. It’s sad to think of how young she was. But, it’s encouraging to know that she was surrounded by love during this time – to know that her life brought out all this love from people. And it’s good to know that she’s now at peace.

Abbie Nallo, July 11, 1981 – December 8, 2006
Rest in peace.


At 3:20 PM, Blogger MJ said...

I'm sitting here reading this with tears going down my cheeks. As you said, she's now at peace, but to read what she all went through and how her last days were spent is so emotional. I can imagine how you feel right now and how you felt through all this. You tried so hard to get her the help and just kept getting stone-walled.

At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am a friend of Jeannie's. I am so sorry for your loss. Heaven is a beautiful place to spend Christmas. I'm sure Abbie is happier now than she has ever been

Rejoice! She would want you to be a "Happy Servant".

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for helping us be connected with Abbie, even if was just knowing her story and offering prayers. I imagine you often felt helpless in affecting her health conditions, but you played an important role in not letting her be an inconsequential statistic to us, and of course, in offering her your support and love.
You're doing important work, Steve.


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