Markku is stunned.
He does not know what to do but check, again and again, a repetition that he knows will not bear fruit, but it is all he can think to do. Perhaps it is all a terrible mistake, something overlooked, or hiding inside the tiny backpack he slung over his shoulder this morning. He looks again.
Jacky has already bolted from the bus, searching for someone she cannot describe, mid-twenties maybe, but who knows. He was wearing a hat, she thinks. The shirt he wore is green, or blue.
The world is turned upside down.
“We withdrew $2,000 from our bank account to pay a shipping agent” Markku explains. “We boarded a bus for downtown; when I reached for my wallet, it was gone.”
They no longer have the money to pay the shipping company that is carrying an heirloom piano, literature, and art from eastern Oregon meant to grace their new home in Cuenca.
Markku has still not left the bus. He is stunned, stabbed with regret and paralyzed with despair. He is bleeding sadness.
They are now a statistic, a number added to a list somewhere, a police report that will include neither blood nor tears.
Oregon history is cluttered with tales of possessions lost along the pioneer trail surging west from Missouri — landmarks of unrealistic expectations, signposts of the discouraged. But, this is not Jacky and Markku. They were careful, really careful.
“And, for christsakes, don’t you dare start with some, ‘it is only stuff,’ baloney. We did not pack a barricade of things to shield us, only that which is genuinely essential to our lives — music, books, and art.”
He is insistent. He repeats himself again and again.
All is in jeopardy.
Anger and loss are carving deep chasms, jagged and raw, within them.
Tonight they will dream that friends were there to help, saw the evil deed, and ran the culprit, and the whole soggy mess into the ground. But such dreams are selfish re-runs of westerns from childhood – and this is not a dream.
Jacky is intimately familiar with loss. Her mother was mutilated by it.
Hisako Otani is from Hiroshima. When she was just a girl, she watched a mushroom cloud take everything away, including her faith and security. For the rest of her life, Otani would wash, fold and try to save everything, even her used aluminum foil. She had a box labeled, String too short to be saved. Friends were scarce. She was fearful of strangers. She was not able to open the door.
Ms. Otani spent nearly her entire life engulfed in a fireball of fear and hoarding. It finally caught up with her when she was too frail to defend herself. The effects of radiation painfully riddled her body and then killed her.
Markku and Jacky are awash in the profundity of their loss. For reasons of their own choosing, they lived for many years in the vast landscape of eastern Oregon, where all are presumed to be safe — where people are few, self-reliant and dependable. But, it was not quite enough. They chose to move here to enrich their lives.
Tragedy can smash you in the face, or twist your heart, wringing blood and despair. What may seem on the surface to be cuts and bruises may instead be severed arteries no longer able to nourish the heart.
It isn’t the money. It is the sword of stolen faith that harms them.
On a beautiful Tuesday morning, Jacky and Markku Sario boarded a bus to go downtown and pay a shipper who, in just a few days, would deliver their long-awaited possessions from Oregon to their new home in Ecuador. But, it all went horribly wrong. Look. See Markku stunned into repeating, again and again; this cannot be. Look over here. Jacky is straining to recognize the source of their loss, knowing it is unknown. Look inward, try to grasp the magnitude of their lost faith and security. And, finally, look with downcast eyes at their inability to rescue their long-awaited art and music — the essentials of their life.
All is in jeopardy now.
Pray that help will arrive in time, that faith will be restored, that nothing will be overlooked, and that peace will prevail.
During the course of talking to Markku and Jacky for this story, I asked them what one thing did they expect to find by choosing Cuenca as their new home.
Their answer is heartbreaking,
“That we would no longer feel vulnerable.”
I suppose they received their wish, for they no longer feel vulnerable.
They feel broken.