10 Moments in Jamaica I Will Never Forget

1. The Happiest Moment: Finding my beautiful baby Buddy (or, more accurately, him finding me) and the sense of amazement each time I peered into the bath and saw his tiny self quietly sleeping there.

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2. The Saddest Moment: the last moments of Buddy’s life as he lay whimpering in my lap, lifting his little head every now and then to look into my eyes. I will always wonder what he was trying to say.

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3. The Strangest Moment: the day after Buddy died, as I was walking home from school and this little guy raced out of the bushes and did the whole-body wiggle, showering my legs with licks as I patted him. What strange forces of the universe conspired to ensure Buddy’s brother crossed paths with me at that exact time and place?

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4. The Bad First-Impression Moment: when I met a little kitten I would come to know as Stella. She was deeply distrusting of people, scampering away if you tried to pat her and so starved she bit my leg. Now she happily rubs against my legs purring and turns her nose up at anything that isn’t fish or meat. In fact, lately she is so fat I wonder if she is about to have kittens of her own.

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5. The Proudest Moment: When Johneil read the word “and”. Seemingly a fairly insignificant thing, but for him – who had never read a single word – and me – who had been working with him for three months – it was an absolute triumph.

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6. The Most Helpless Moment: Sitting in the doctor’s office with Freddie, a muscular nineteen-year-old boy, wishing away his shame and fear as he tremblingly told her about the seizures he suffered in silence because his family said they were the devil inside him.

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7. The Most Grateful Moment: Seeing the most beautiful beach in Jamaica (Frenchman’s Cove, hands down) and for the first time feeling ridiculously lucky to be exactly where I was.

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8. The Most Speechless Moment: My stomach lurching and my mind clouding over as a first-grade girl casually informed me her friend would not be at school for a while because she had a broken hand after a beating from her mother.

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9. The Most Moving Moment: Miss Rose taking my hand and leading me up to the alter during the last hymn at my very last Jamaican church service, and all our strong, unified voices singing together: “My strength renew, my home restore, Lord, I’m coming home.” I’m not a particularly religious person, but in that moment my whole body felt on fire with a connection to something far bigger than myself.

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10. The Most Spectacular Moment: wispy clouds curling around the full moon, and then both clouds and moon disappearing to make way for the sun at Blue Mountain Peak.

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