I’m not entirely sure why I stuck to this project for so long or what originally drew me to Tanzania. Initially, I wanted to hide from the reality of my mother’s death—to escape. But as I became more invested in each project, my mind traveled away from the tediousness of work, and it enriched my life. Playing a large role in helping to bring water to two separate remote villages gave me purpose.
As I put the pieces of this story together, I’m not entirely sure how to process what it all means—and maybe it doesn’t have to mean anything at all. We all deal with grief differently, but as the saying goes: it’s the journey (cheesy, I know), and this journey was a long one.
Separate from—and perhaps more importantly than—any true meaning, these projects allowed me to forge lasting friendships, specifically with Perry and Moshi, but also with people from my community. And with Doug and his fifth-grade students and the teachers in the storytelling club. Plus all the people who wanted to be a part of this—mostly because I asked—Loc and Meshe and Brent and Jacqui and Lois and Dominic, and everyone who helped from Queen Victoria. There are some stories that I haven’t told, stories that other people, like Perry and Moshi, will have to one day tell themselves. My story was only a part of something bigger. With all of the people who listened—even if it seemed like a bizarre obsession—not one single person told us to stop, and it motivated us to continue.
I realize now how deeply connected I am to my mother. She lived her life by doing, always driving herself forward, always showing the initiative. It was these same traits in me that helped to make all of these projects happen. And what once felt like simply an outside influence driving me forward has become a part of my body, and the stories are fused with the blood in my veins, providing oxygen to keep me going.
Each night when I drink a glass of water on the porch, I often think of Moshi, and the memories wash over me. They now define me. They are the pieces that I have put together, and now they fit together as one complete image—my truth.
And someday, when Zoe reads this to her children—if that’s her path—or reflects upon its words on her own years from now, she can add to this story, reshape it, reform it, and rewrite it, applying her own meaning to what was once just mine.
And then she will become the owner of this story, and my memories will become hers.