Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Companion to Grow Old With – Conclusion - Africa

Original Photo - Safari Lodge
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
A week later Peg and George invited Bill and I to dinner. On the drive over I gave God a list of demands. If I were to be in another relationship, it had to be effortless. I did not want to turn my world upside down for another man.

I should know better than to give God an ultimatum.

First, Bill was everything I had dreamed of - literally. He was tall, handsome, kind, and we had so much in common it was almost scary. We talked non-stop about art, history, books, travel. We even drank our coffee exactly the same (shades of Meet Joe Black). Half way through dinner Bill leaned close to ask a question, and I actually felt an electrical charge (another reference to Meet Joe Black - a theme?). When I was ready to leave, Bill walked me out to my vehicle.

"I'd like to see you again. Would you consider going out to dinner with me?"

"Yes."

"Well, I have odd days off, Sundays and Mondays. Would next Sunday work for you?"

"As a matter of fact, I have Sundays and Mondays off and next Sunday would be just fine." Mea culpa, Lord. You made your point - all evening! 

Whenever I was with Bill, one word kept whirling through my mind - home. It felt like I had finally come home. Our relationship was so natural, it was effortless.

As we both had been married numerous times, we wanted something different. Bill suggested Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Since returning from his first trip to Africa he had felt it would be a magical, romantic place to be married. I agreed. Through an angel of a travel agent we arranged for a ceremony at the Safari Lodge in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa.

On June 17th at three pm, we stood in the open veranda on the third floor of the lodge and repeated our vows before a magistrate and two local witnesses. Behind us was a watering hole teaming with Elephant, Kudu, Cape buffalo, Zebra and Wart hogs. Beyond that was the African bush, broken only by the gleaming waters of the Zambezi River. I felt like pinching myself, but then, if I was dreaming, I didn’t really want to wake up.

That night we sat out on the lodge's veranda and ate dinner by candlelight. A troupe of four young men serenaded our table with African love songs, finishing their performance with The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The setting sun turned the sky vivid gold and red. Lions roared somewhere out in the deepening shadows.

Bill took my hand, gently kissed it, and whispered. "I love you."  

My world was perfect - beyond anything I imagined.

From Victoria Falls we flew to Johannesburg, South Africa. We spent the night in a Bed and Breakfast and the next day went shopping. Our first stop was a Diamond Merchant where we bought my ring. Later, alone in our room, Bill pledged his love once again and placed the ring on my finger.

The next day we flew to Hoedspruit, South Africa, the gateway to Krueger National Park. We spent our honeymoon on photo safari at the Edeni Game Reserve and for five days we observed wildlife: Lions, Elephants, Buffalo, Leopard, Cheetah, Hyena and South African Wild dogs to name just a few. Then it was back to Johannesburg and home. Before the plane left the tarmac I was already wishing I could come back.

***
Eight months after we returned from Africa, Bill became ill. His doctors dismissed it as the flu, but I knew something was very wrong, something other than flu. Bill was delirious and so hot I could barely stand to touch him. Finally a specialist located the problem – a very large internal abscess.

The surgery was simple and the doctors expected Bill would be home after a few hours in recovery. That didn’t happen. Some of the toxins entered Bill's blood stream during the surgery and his fever spiked to 105 degrees. I stood outside the hospital room and listened to the frantic efforts of the medical staff.  What if I lost Bill? What if I was widowed  again - for the third time? If it was God's will to take Bill, I would survive. I had before and I would again. I thought of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham trusted God, knowing he had a promise. A promise! I too had a promise. At that moment I knew, despite all appearances, Bill would be healed - without the residual effects the doctors expected.

Three days later Bill was released from the hospital. Tests showed none of the toxins had entered his organs and against all of their predictions Bill walked away completely healed.

The next morning as I paged through my Bible I noticed a footnote I had not read before. It stated the number seven represents a great number, and when paired with the number eight, means an even greater number. It was then I fully understood His promise.

We are currently at nine years and counting....

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