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Eulogy for a Missionary

It was a Sunday lunch. Summer streamed through the window screens, refracted off the crystal glassware, and rustled the linen tablecloth that grazed our knees.

“I don’t understand it!” she said. “There were people from church, people I had eaten with, worshipped with, shared my hymnal with, who were literally hacking up other members with their machetes! There was the revolting stink of blood and eviscerated bodies being baked by the sun... I saw a baby sliced from his mother’s arms!” she choked, though her eyes held a futile vacancy.

A fork scraped a plate, delivering its last plump glob of potato salad to a waiting mouth. A hand with flawless half-moon fingertips turned the stem of glass listlessly. Muted birdsong filtered in from outside.

“I got on the bus when they told me to. I was simply airlifted out of there,” she continued, her tone still desperate but more controlled. “Why couldn’t they be? I left them... Why couldn't we take them, get the Tutsis out of there? I left, and my friends died. They were tortured and died. And for what? …Absolutely nothing.”

Beginning to clear the dinner plates in preparation for dessert, the hostess moved efficiently about the table, her grey hair haloed by the sunlight bursting into the room.

“You need to have faith,” she insisted, glancing at the woman who had been speaking so fervently, before crumpling a paper napkin tightly in her hand and continuing to stack the dishes. “You know, what happened was all part of God’s plan.”

“Yeah,” the guest replied numbly, exhaustedly, before passing on pie à la mode and falling silent.