As the trip fills us with memories, our time remaining becomes short. We are approaching the end and it is difficult for me to remain focused on anything but the reality of having to say goodbye…again. Our final days are filled with hugs, tears and as many “I love you’s” as possible.
The younger boys at St. Valentine’s become sad; their smiles falter and the laughter fades away as we begin gathering our items and saying our goodbyes. This is getting more difficult every year. The older boys walk us down the long road, as they do every night, but a silent pall hangs over our group because we know what happens at the end of this road. But I’ll come back. I promise.
We pile one last time into the van, but now there are 14 of us squeezed together, because every year those closest to me refuse to let me make the three-hour journey back to Douala on my own. At the airport I am enveloped in hugs. I don’t bother trying to hold back my tears. “Don’t cry, mom,” they tell me, trying their best to be brave and strong.
One of them hands me a poem that he has written. I can barely read it through my tears, but when I reach the end I realize that they know. They know I’m coming back. They know we are a family.