Over a year ago

Sophia at work in Lubaga hospital

Amsterdam, November 16, 2016

On Friday October 28th, around eight o’clock in the evening Dutch time, it was a year ago that the telephone call came. ‘Sophia has been missing for over two and a half hours now’. The life we had known until that moment ended abruptly and a terrible nightmare started. It continues to this day.

All those things in that former life, so many things one takes for granted, but we no longer can.
A good friend said:

Our children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces travel all over the world and then come home safely. And then, all of a sudden, that cannot be taken for granted anymore’.

What a privilege it is to know where your child is. To be able to send a whatsapp and then get an answer. And how totally normal we think this is, until the moment that everything falls apart. In a hundred pieces.

On that Friday last month we received many kind cards and mails . Flowers were delivered. And candles. People know we always burn candles for Sophia. Even at night. Then we use the ones that are battery operated, we don’t want to leave her alone in the dark.
It is truly heartwarming that so many people keep showing their unconditional empathy with us. And continue to hope with us.

A close friend of Sophia wrote that day:

It’s already been a year that our lovely Sophia has been missing. We all miss her terribly. I think about her every day. What would she be doing now, what is she thinking, when will she come home to us? I miss my dear and good friend who is always there for me when I need her and who is always positive. Sophia is a strong, clever, cheerful, creative, strong-willed and driven girl. I have hope and I will always keep hoping’.

We, her parents and brothers, are not the only ones who miss her intensely, day in, day out. She plays a part in many lives and especially her close group of friends is wrestling with her absence.

Sophia would be doing her practicals now. Every day she’d come home with enthusiastic stories about everything she sees, the doctors she works with, where and when she’s allowed to assist. Just as she wrote about her experiences in Kampala, every week. And just as she did in the early summer of 2014 when she did three weeks of junior practicals in the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital (Netherlands Cancer Institute). It left a deep impression on her.
We would so much like to hear those stories.

It is very difficult for us to grasp Sophia’s absence. We don’t know what happened, that Wednesday evening in October last year, when she disappeared practically without a trace, within a timespan of ten minutes, and is still missing today.

During my recent visit to Uganda I, Sophia’s mother, have yet again heard things that I was not aware of before. The paradox ‘the more you know, the less you know’ is very applicable here. That does not make things easier, you start to doubt everything. Who speaks the truth and who doesn’t?
But still, what we continue to try to find is that truth.
Giving up on our Sophia is no option. We cannot and may not do that.

Time goes on and on. We know that, we see it, but we cannot spend too much time thinking about it. Then fear will grab us , and we may lose the hope we still have. That hope is what helps us survive, from day to day.
We have to go forward, continue to hope, keep thinking what we can do and keep searching for our Sophia. We are grateful for the people around us who support us in that.
As mentioned earlier, we can use all the help that is on offer.

Marije Slijkerman
Gerard, Max en Jan Koetsier