In six days it will be Christmas ...

My friends and I are going to fetch our old age pensions today. Today is the day where we will all meet at the pension office, we will spend some time together chatting, then buy some fruit and bread from the informal vendors sitting on the pavement outside the pension office. Today should be happy with anticipation of the coming festivities. But there is no joy, there is no happy expectation. On the contrary, most of us are exhausted, not only from walking a long way in the heat and the blazing sun, but also from nursing our adult children who have AIDS and from trying to care for all the grandchildren, as well.

Nokuthula, my 26 year old daughter died in October from AIDS related infections. She has left me with her three children to care for. The youngest of the three is Mbali. Mbali is now four years old and is showing similar symptoms to what her mother had. She is too weak to walk, so I have to carry her on my back wherever I go. Thokozani (7 years) and Fikile (6 years) are also too young to stay on their own at home, in an area where violence, rape and child abuse are part of daily life. We must look a very sorry sight as we all traipse along the muddy roads together.

The bond between Mbali and her mother was very deep, as she was breast fed for two and a half years. But it was this love, which was to seal her fate, as she too is in full blown AIDS now. Mbali’s father died during 2002.

As I leave the pension office and the street vendors with my few oranges and a loaf of bread for supper, I wonder to myself what is going to happen to the children when I die. I am now 82 years old and not very strong. I brush the thought from my mind as I walk because the problems of today overwhelm me.

Mbali is crying, she has diarrhoea, oral thrush, refuses to eat anything and is emaciated. How am I going to cope? One of my friends tells me about Blessed Gérard’s Hospice where her daughter had been cared for. She was so impressed that she suggested I go there with Mbali. I turn around and walk the eight kilometres with Mbali on my back and Thokozani and Fikile following.

Finally I reach Blessed Gérard’s Hospice. I am received with warmth and respect into the reception area. It is cool inside and we can finally sit down. Mbali lies on the floor out of sheer weakness. A nurse comes and picks her up; we are taken to a lounge where we are offered something cold to drink. The nurse takes Mbali to the examination room, where we mutually decide to admit her to the hospice. My heart is very sad but it is also suddenly lighter and I am so grateful. The people are so nice to me and to the children.

Mbali is taken to a nice clean room where there are other children but she is too sick to notice. I leave with a spring in my step, although it is a long way home I know Mbali is in good hands.

The compassionate and sensitive people at Blessed Gérard’s Hospice have told me that when Mbali is a little stronger, they will send her upstairs to Blessed Gérard’s Children’s Home, where she can play and learn, where she can be cared for and loved.

Thank you to the people who help in Blessed Gérard’s Hospice and Blessed Gérard’s Children’s Home, you have helped me tremendously. Knowing that Mbali receives all the care that she needs her brother and sister and I can enjoy Christmas.”

Foot note: Mbali did indeed enjoy her Christmas, but her condition continued to deteriorate over the next few weeks and finally she succumbed to AIDS when God called her at the end of February 2004.

This page is part of the Newsletter No. 24 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

Back to the homepage of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:49:56