In July I ventured into a new industry, while out on course, I met and made friends with new faces. One person in particular I found to be so much like me, easy to laugh, talkative, funny and friendly. Needless to say, when we were given a practical we seemed naturally to group together. After the course we stayed in contact and have developed a friendship. Early August she called me up to say she was visiting her father who lived down the road from where I stayed. Quick arrangements and there I stood knocking on her door.
When I went in, I received such a warm welcome from all her family. In the kitchen were a group of young boys washing dishes, drying, packing away, laughing and chatting. After I introduced myself I joked about how I think my eldest son could learn from them as he refuses to was a single dish – ever !!
I then met her father along with all the other family. Her father was frail, weak and very thin. He was just back from yet another stay in the hospital. I asked her what was ‘wrong’ with her father. ‘He has AIDS‘ she replied. I got such a lump in my throat. He didn’t just have AIDS – he was dying.
It’s the second time in my life I have been in the presence of a dying person. When I say dying – I mean literally on their last days. I was familiar with Cancer and lost a handful of friends and family to that. I know AIDS is of huge concern here in Africa but this was only the second time I had met someone this close to the end.
I watched him in the corner of my eye while chatting away with my friend across the room. He was happy, every minute to him was a blessing and he knew it …. he just knew. He watched his grandchildren playing with a gently smile on his face and his thoughts drifting. Times like this you realise just how short, fragile, delicate and precious life really is. How we really do sweat so much of the small stuff. I’ve learnt far too young in my life just how unpredictable and short life can really be.
I wondered yet again as I often do with regards to my own mother. Is knowing better than not knowing. I know enough to know that when you know you are dying – you seem to live your life differently. Appreciation for all things that surround us, takes on a whole new level.
I said good-bye and shook his hand. I knew in my heart I would probably never see him again. I cried driving home that night. I just wanted a cure. So many broken families, child parents and a nasty rejection stigma attached to people dying of AIDS among some cultures in our country.
My friend called me two weeks back – ‘My father is back in hospital, he is hallucinating’ she said while laughing and telling me about these spirits he claims to be visiting his room’. I listened and shared a reserved laughter with her. After which I said, ‘He is dying, treasure your hospital visits and maybe if you want, record his last conversations with you’ I explained my journey through losing my loved ones and every time this point was reached, within a couple of days – they were gone.
A few days later one mid-afternoon, she called, ‘my dad is gone, he died this morning’ I was so sad for her, for him – to die so young, to be robbed of his life and time with his children & grandchildren. It just isn’t fair.
Our govt claims TB is the number one killer in our country. Personally I say this is a blatant lie. The true stats I’m sure would probably scare one. Most, if not all AIDS sufferers die after contracting the likes of pneumonia or TB. It’s a symptom not the cause. Far too often then the death certificate will say TB being the cause and that is what the statistics will reflect. AIDS is a big taboo in most cultures. One day I will blog about the politics of it but for now – my heart is heavy. A family is mourning, they have lost their rock. I will never forget this man who left me reflecting on life, angry at how unfair it can be yet reflecting on my blessings. RIP, no more pain or suffering.
Janet Jackson wrote this song for her friends who had passed – It’s my song for my sister Debbie who past. Can never listen to it without breaking down. Beautiful words.
Remember yesterday, Live for today and ALWAYS hope for tomorrow.