My Indonesian colleague, Ibu Rita calls me to let me know. I had been expecting the news, but still I feel shocked. Sad. Angry. I am not scheduled to work that day.
"Ibu, how can I say goodbye to them? I feel like crying. I don't want to make them sadder than neccessary. I don't want to worry them. Maybe I shouldn't come." I say to her.
"What you think make them sadder?" she growls me. "Mami Clare come to say goodbye with tears in her eyes, or no goodbye at all".
I'm ashamed. "Ok Ibu. I'll see you tomorrow."
Finally I am a legitimate bleeding heart, because this hurts more than work should.
I don't want to worry them with my tears, despite several boys already becoming visibly upset. One won't leave his room, another sits forlornly on a chair with tears rolling down his little face. I am both humbled and honoured to be here. Several times my eyes brim but I laugh it off. "Mami baby today" I tell them.
One of my favourites, a big dopey cool kid from the middle east comes to sit with me. We are filling in 'exit surveys', asking the boys about the best & worst things our company provide. "What is the best thing?" I ask and he smiles at me and replies "You are Mami". And I am overwhelmed, my eyes are full and my chin quivers and my voice can't speak. "No cry Mami" he says, and I pat his arm and smile through my tears and I feel devastated but thrilled with his answer.
Eventually the bus is here and we are saying goodbye. I'm delighted to finally be able to wrap these boys up in my Mami arms, to comfort them like their own Mothers would. Everywhere people are hugging, crying. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindu's. It's so very moving, I'm so privileged to be here. Finally my dopey boy finds me and I wrap him up. Delam Barat Tang Mishe Pesaram, I whisper to him. He knows the English words. I will miss you my son.
I hope that ever if my own children are far from me and they need comfort that someone does the same for them. Cares. Laughs. Cries. Comforts.
Then they are gone. I am so very sad, but so truly blessed to have been here. I will never forget these boys and I will certainly never forget this goodbye.