Tribute and tribulation, two words so very similar in spelling and pronunciation but vastly different in meaning. The exact difference was brought home to me this past week when I experienced both in the space of twelve hours.
We paid tribute to a man who came into Mozambique at a time when the country was just emerging from a long and horrific civil war which had torn the country apart and brought it to the knees of poverty and deprivation. He came into the country from Zimbabwe, first on regular trips, trading foods and items from Zimbabwe, for prawns and seafood from the coast. The roads were practically nonexistent with the risk of mines or attacks from either of the warring parties along the way. He would tell stories for hours describing the trips and adventures and close shaves he, his family and his friends had in those early days.
The stories of setting up business in Mozambique at a time when legal administrative procedures were nonexistent and everything was done with bribery and corruption as par for the process were amazing. In Beira, at the time, there was no piped water or sanitation facilities, very rarely any electricity and no shops, fuel or basic living commodities. As he and his family were coming through to Beira so often and friends were starting to join them it was decided that a restaurant and camp ground should be built. This was started on a small-scale but its popularity became such that it expanded and grew into a sprawling, thatched roof venue renown for good food and the best view in Beira. That was twenty years ago, this man and his family certainly saw and experienced a lot of change in the slowly awakening country. When he passed away two weeks ago the restaurant was closed for the day in order to hold a memorial service for him. The Service was a tribute to his memory read out and spoken about by various longstanding members of the Beira community. Each of the members of the restaurant staff, some of whom had been with him from the beginning, took a handful of ashes from the box held by his son and threw them into the sea. A fitting tribute as he had loved the ocean.
Then came the tribulation. Half an hour after we locked up and went home we received a call to say the restaurant was on fire. His Restaurant. What an awful shock, what desolation, what bone crushing sadness. You can never prepare yourself for something like this and the ache inside my chest was so extreme at times I thought I would be ill.
Why did this happen? What was the reason? How did it happen? How are we going to survive?
A week later not many of the questions have been answered but I have theories. He loved the restaurant, it was his, maybe he wanted to take it with him. Maybe someone still living decided he should take it with him.
Whatever the reason, the tribulation of suddenly realising you have nothing left out of what was something huge pushed us to a level we did not realise we could reach. Out of adversity comes strength, strength you often do not realise you have. The Old Man built the restaurant through a lot of trial and tribulation on his part, maybe now it was our turn to rebuild and suffer a similar stress and tribulation in order to learn to appreciate what he went through.
In our tribute to him we had to experience the tribulation he had endured as he knew he had left that legacy of strength in his family and he knew they would get through and achieve what he had achieved and love it the same as he had.