Those of you who have read my memoir, In Search of Pink Flamingos, may recall Clara as my house girl in Zorgowee, Liberia. Her real name is Sarah. (I have permission to use her name.) Sarah was older than I thought when I was in Liberia. Though she hadn’t finished grade school, she was about 18 years old in 1971. This young woman was very special. Quiet, smart and ever so kind. She taught me how to shop, cook and navigate the idiosyncrasies of living in our small village.
After I left Liberia, I met Sarah again in 1975 when she visited me in California with Janet (Sally in the book), the former volunteer in Zorgowee who sponsored her coming to the US on a student visa. After that visit I lost touch with both Janet and Sarah.
Many decades later, in 2021, I reunited with Janet and discovered Sarah had become a nursing health assistant, married a Liberian man, and became US citizens living in Philadelphia. Here is an earlier photo of Sarah with Janet and three of her children.
However, my news of finding Sarah was bittersweet. Sadly, Sarah had developed early Alzheimer disease and had lived in a nursing facility for the past 5 years.
Later that year, when I learned of this news and her condition, I arranged a Face Time call with the nursing home manager who held the iPad to Sarah while I called her name. Sarah awoke from her slumber and opened her eyes as if searching for me. I spoke to her for about 2 minutes telling her who I was, thanked her for all that she did for me in Liberia, and that I loved her. I am unsure if she knew who I was or if she even saw me. When I ended the call I wept. I was filled with grief but was grateful as I had found Sarah after 50 years and had the opportunity to thank her.
After several years in her demented state, she succumbed and passed away peacefully on July 31, 2022 at age 69.
Janet was able to attend the service in person and explained how Sarah leaves a life-long legacy of service as many at the funeral spoke of how she helped others so they could lead better lives, just as she had helped me and Janet in our small village of Zorgowee.
Rest in Peace, my Dear Sarah.
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