Rose died in 2003. She was 54 years old.
I arrived in Mae La camp on her final day. Steve Edney, Robin Wales, and Greg Toews were with me. We walked up to her bamboo home to find her resting on a table. A blanket was pulled over her and June Rose, her daughter, sat beside her still mother with an air of devotion. A tube of snake oil ran from a brown jar down to her nostrils; Karen folk medicine at it’s best.
She had what the hospital said was an aneurism. They said they couldn’t do anything to help her and since she was a refugee, asked her son Fabian to take her back to the refugee camp where she could die without the legal complications of an unregistered woman on Thai soil.
When I walked in a day later there were 87 pairs of brown eyes on me. They looked at me pleadingly. I didn’t know what to do, so I prayed for Rose and sat down with Fabian, drinking tea and feeling somewhat lost.
A few moments later grief filled the building. As Rose passed into eternity, her daughter tenderly began bathing her with a wet cloth and weeping.
Robin, Greg, Steve, and I sat down on the floor where all those beautiful children piled onto our laps, crying terribly and looking into our eyes between sobs. We cried with them.
I gathered the children to me and spoke through my own cloud of sadness. I promised them that I would care for them, that we would find them a new home to live in where someone as caring as Rose would nurture them and love them as their new foster parent. We hugged and prayed, then cried some more together.
While I drove back to Chiang Mai to get Oddny and my daughters, the adult helpers and Rose’s kids prepared the funeral.
Crossing in a long tail boat back to Burma, the soil of her birth, we hiked up to a flat clearing where soldiers had dug a hole to burry Rose in. I was one of the first to drop dirt into her grave as I walked past, bidding my mentor and friend farewell. 87 orphans followed me with tears in their eyes.
Back in Thailand we drove to Mae La Camp to negotiate with the Thai Army Commander to move Roses kids from Zone 3 to zone 1 where Peh Lu lived. With our truck spilling over with the anxious expressions of so many orphans, we drove them to their new home.
Oddny sat in the back with Naw Mu Kapaw on her lap, crying quietly with her.