A seal upon your heart, p.35
A Seal Upon Your Heart,
She shook her head. “I can pray for absolution. Tim this is bigger than that. It’s like…pieces of a puzzle are forming and I haven’t allowed them to fit into place.” She knew that she talked in riddles but how did she express this feeling to him.
He sat on the couch, his mouth agape. “You’re going to leave me for God?” It wasn’t really a question directed at her but an incredulous realization.
She sat down next to him and took his hand. “You’re going to have to give me time to grow as a woman and as a Christian.”
She remembered the way that he had looked at her, his eyes scanning hers before he released her hand and walked to the door. He nodded and left. It broke her heart because she knew what he thought in that instant when he walked out the door; that he had corrupted her. But that wasn’t true. His was but one experience that that she had sought. And all of the collected experiences formed influences, which she had allowed to guide her actions. There was no blame in that observation—only the acceptance that she needed to know where she should go from here.
Martier sat on her couch, contemplating that for a while. Some things were hard and she didn’t want to face them; like untwining herself from Tim who was so ingrained in her that everything she did was in some way wrapped around him. But there was also Rwanda and the memory of death. Only one thing was still a mystery and that was of her father’s role.
She moved slowly to the folder that she kept on a shelf in the closet. She took it back to the couch and sat down before opening it. The file wasn’t very big; she leafed through the pages until she got to one containing a small snapshot of her father. She gasped and covered her mouth. Her eyes filled with tears and she began to shake.
“Papa…” He was so young. She didn’t remember him looking like this; young and vulnerable. Suddenly she needed to know what was written in these pages. She flipped to the first sheet of paper and read.
Martin made written testimony that on April 6, 1994, a government minister along with armed soldiers entered his office where he was employed with the department of Agriculture. He knew them to be Interahamwe; the Hutu militia and was told that he was to be in charge of 25 men and boys that would carry out the execution of several members of his community who where known to be Tutsi or Hutu moderates. He stated that he informed his superior that he did not want to be a Militia leader but was told that any Hutu who did not willingly engage in the ‘extermination’ would be considered a moderate and subject to the same treatment.
Reluctantly he agreed to lead the men and then quickly called his wife and explained what was happening. She then contacted several Tutsi neighbors that were on the list. Martin and his men went to the first home but were unable to locate anyone. The men that he was in charge of then ransacked the house and they went on to the next house.
As Martier read her hands began to sweat. The next home was that of Thomas and Candis Ibori and their two children--who were unnamed. As Martier read the details of the slaughter she covered her mouth and cried. Instance after instance it was detailed as the group moved from house to house. The only thing is that she remembered Mr. Ibori. Papa used to drink beer with him…
Martin didn’t return to his home after the first day but returned to a camp where he and his men were made to provide reports of their activities and then given additional weapons; among them high-powered rifles. The next day was a repeat of the second—with one difference, someone had found out that Benitha Besigye had provided information to Tutsis. Her father was then taken into custody and her mother’s name was placed on the list for execution.
Martier turned to the last page of the file in rapt attention. Her hands were shaking by that time.
It read: Martin Besigye was killed while awaiting trial; prison officials found his beaten body on August 12, 1994.
She sat quietly until the wee hours of the night. Instead of trying to forget she tried to remember. And when it was morning she knew that she had to go to Rwanda to find out more; for closure, to see with her own eyes.
The next morning Martier drove back to Bartholoma for her purse—or maybe that was her excuse. But she sought out Sister Louise and learned of several missionary groups located in Rwanda that were backed by the Catholic Diocese. She became excited at the idea of fulfilling two goals; reconnecting with Rwanda and determining if being a missionary would be the right fit for her. Things moved very quickly after that. She was put in touch with ORR; Operation Repair Rwanda. After talking to Father Adrian Packard she decided that she wanted to join ORR.
They were building schools and churches and since Rwanda was predominately Catholic they had a number of people to minister to.
But there was a problem, ORR wasn’t sure that they wanted her. Father Packard explained that their missionaries train for six months; sometimes longer and there was also the matter of a missionary visa. But mainly there was a concern that if she was emotionally scarred then it might be a tough journey for her. Martier explained that she had a passport and could travel as a visitor. Also, she didn’t deny that she was troubled but explained that her journey would be a painful one—and she needed ORR for that very reason. She didn’t want to do it alone; and it was her cry for help that caused them to accept her. The next day Martier began packing her bags for a flight out to Boston and then a connector to Amsterdam.
She had not talked to Tim since their break-up but called him to let him know that she would be leaving. He didn’t answer his phone but she left the message wanting to say so much more. Before she hung up she whispered that she loved him and then her phone rang three minutes later.
“Where are you going?” He demanded.
If she told him where she was going then she would look over her shoulder for him; hoping that he would be there at the same time that she would be hoping that he wouldn’t. “I need time.”
“How much time?” He asked, trying to control his anger.
“I don’t know,” she said.
She could tell that he was about to hang up. “Tim. I will be back. One way or the other. I swear it.” He was quiet. “I wasn’t lying when I said that I love you.”
He blew out a long breath and then cursed. “I want you to take one of my credit cards-”
“In case you need it!”
“No! Tim this is one of the things that I’m trying to get away from!” He was quiet again.
“Martier…I understand. I want you to…” he cleared his throat. “I want you to grow as a woman. I want you to be the Christian that you desire to be. I want you to be whatever you need to be and I don’t want you coming back here to be with me because you think I need it. You come back because you want it! Promise me that!”
She wiped the tears from her eyes and fought to keep her voice clear. “I promise. Will you make me a promise?”
“Watch out for Linda. She’s in a bad place. Will you take her on as your assistant? Maybe keep those dogs at work from pawing at her?”
“Yes. I’ll…I can do that.”
“Don’t let her go to Jakob.”
“Just…please let her work for you and not anyone else. And if she asks…tell her that she can’t move in here. She needs to stay with Sister Callista.”
There was a long pause. “Will you call me? Let me know you’re okay?”
“No. If I do that then I’ll just look forward to talking to you and you’ll…you’ll wait for me to call you. That’s not fair to either of us.”
There was another long pause and then eventually a sigh. “Take care of yourself.”
“I will. I’ll leave the key on the counter.”
“Take it with you.”
She took in a deep, shaky breath and it was the first time she allowed any emotion. “Goodbye.” And then she hung up before Tim could say another word.
The Stipp hotel, where the group stayed that first night was surprisingly modern. It was late in the evening when they drove past the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and Sister Rita Madden explained again that they would be able to get most of the information surrounding her father’s death right there.
After breakfast at the hotel, the next morning Martier took a copy of her father’s file and then quietly boarded the shuttle to the Memorial Centre. She gawked at the city around her, not finding anything familiar but surprised that it was actually very beautiful. The streets were clean and as they drove she caught the faint dialect of the people coming and going, as well as music from their radios. She suddenly felt a bit more at ease. She couldn’t deny that this portion of the trip was gut wrenching for her but it helped to see and hear the sounds that had never left her subconscious.
They met Geoff Hernandez who worked with the documentation department. He appeared of Latin descent and was fairly short with a belly that poked out like a pregnant woman’s. He smiled easily and seemed happy to meet with them; and Martier specifically.
She left her group behind while Geoff led her to an office containing a number of file cabinets and a computer. “Miss Besigye, I’ll show you how to search the database. You can input names or locations and the information that you’ll receive back is like a tree with branches. We’re trying very hard to connect every individual involved. For that reason I would like to record your testimony.”
She raised her brow. “Mine?”
“Yes. You’re a survivor. And if you will consider providing your account of the events as you remember them then it is just another branch that fills out this tree of information.” Martier felt her palms sweat and she squeezed the tissue that was in shred in her hand but eventually she nodded.
“Thank you. Not every survivor is ready to provide testimony. We’ve been going door to door collecting as much information as possible. It helps people who are trying to find answers just as it helps educate the world.” Geoff showed her how to use the computer and then she was left alone to research in privacy.
She typed in her father’s name and information immediately came up. She saw that it was much of the same information that was contained in the file only now there were pictures. Just like Geoff had said; the information was like the branch of a tree and one such branch led to her mother Benitha.
Her consciousness seemed to shift as she stared at the image of her mother’s smiling face from a photo that must have been taken from their house. The picture almost seemed to come to life as she now envisioned her mother brushing her hair after her bath. Whether she smiled or concentrated, her mother’s face always wore a look of serenity—as if to say, this is where I want to be.
She studied the picture; there were so many similarities in that face, the straight nose the long hair—though her skin was much lighter. Martier didn’t bother wiping away tears that streamed down her face. Beneath the picture read; Benitha Nufaika-Besigye killed April 19, 1994.
Next was a picture of her sister Hadiya age 10, her brother Yook age 11, Maiba age 8 and then a picture of her; Martier age 6. Instead of the date of death, by her name was written the words; St Bartholoma International School for Girls. She quickly made a print-out and received grainy black and white images.
Next she moved to the information concerning her father’s death. Just days before he was due to make a formal testimony—everything up until that point had just been written—Martin Besigye was beaten until dead. Statements indicate that he was murdered in order to protect certain key figures that had forced him to kill against his will. It was supported when Minister Amil Fofano and several other government workers under his control were convicted of killing witnesses that were due to testify.
Because there is no death penalty in Rwanda, the men responsible for killing her father were currently sitting in jail for their crimes of genocide as well as murder in the second degree. Martier stared at the picture of the men who had killed her father and then moved on to the information concerning those responsible for killing the other members of her family.
She read the names of the perpetrators, each name jogging her memory. Kokayi Okafor—she had a shocking image of the 12 year old boy that had buried the machete in her brother’s back. He served 9 years in prison and was released at the age of 22. Martier covered her face and sobbed bitter tears into her hands. Nine years?
After a moment she got herself together and continued to read. Chuma wasn’t mentioned among the boys that had raped and killed her mother and oldest sister—but he had there. She wiped her eyes with the remnants of her tissue and then stood.
She was ready to give her testimony. As an after thought she stopped and then typed in the name Dhakiya Sekibo; Batsura Rwanda into the database.
Martier toured the Memorial Centre next, taking in the displays of everything from human skulls to the clothing worn by the victims as well as photos and information of those that lost their lives in the three months of the massacre. Over 800,000 people dead in just three months—being here and reading those numbers almost caused her to stagger.
The members in her group joined her in the room where she would give testimony and when she stepped out 15 minutes later she was a different person. The entire group sat for a shakuhachi meditation; a period of listening to the beautiful soft notes of a flute while reflecting. Afterwards they returned to the hotel for lunch. Martier was emotionally and physically too exhausted to eat and retired to her room until they would check out later that afternoon.
Their next stop was to be the mission in the Kameniye neighborhood of Kigali. But for now all she wanted to do was to sleep. Several hours later the ringing of the phone in her room awakened her.
“Hello, Miss Besigye? This is Geoff Hernandez from the Genocide Memorial Centre.”
“Yes Geoff, how are you? Please just call me Martier.”
“Martier. I apologize for calling you. I got your number from Sister Madden.”
Martier rubbed her eyes and frowned. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes. Actually I’m calling because I understand that you’re in Rwanda not only on a fact finding tour but to accomplish some missionary work.”
“Well we at The Centre would like to offer you a job.”
“Yes. You would be under the employment of the documentation department and we would like to ask you to join us in our door-to-door interviews with survivors. We would pay you but it would still be missionary work.”
Martier’s heartbeat raced. “I…I don’t know how well I would do talking to strangers and-”
“We won’t send you out alone and you’ll see how we approach this delicate subject.”
Martier drew her bottom lip into her mouth and twisted the phone cord without knowing that she was doing so. She suddenly realized that she couldn’t think of anything that she wanted to do more.
“Yes. Yes, I think that I would like to do that Geoff. But I will only be staying in Rwanda indefinitely. I have a home…back in the states.” Yes, that was true, her home was with her family and friends. She smiled. The pieces of the puzzle suddenly fell into place and the smile that she had lost so many months before finally returned.
She dug through her suitcase and pulled out a small notebook quickly writing down the words that filled her soul.
the warmth of the sun
from my being
awakening me from within
up my spine
i feel the force
creating the thing
that has eluded me
“Look we can just go for a cup of coffee downstairs at the coffee shop. I’ll even treat you to a pumpkin muffin.”
Linda giggled shyly.
“Look at those gorgeous dimples. Have you ever thought about modeling; you’re exquisite.” Tim cringed. Ugh, don’t fall for that sorry line, girl. He rounded the corner.
“Good morning Lindewe.” He ignored the bumbling idiot.
“Good morning Mr. Singleton. I left your messages on your desk.”
“Thank you.” He opened his office door and then turned and looked at the young man standing by his receptionist’s desk.
A Seal Upon Your Heart by Pepper Pace / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes