A day before Christmas Eve

It was a day before Christmas Eve that small little Hawukelani*, almost five months old, was brought in to our hospice by his mother. He had bad diarrhoea, was vomiting continuously and refused to drink properly, so we admitted him to the children's ward. We tried to feed him  small amounts of food frequently to prevent him from vomiting again. This took us lots of time and patience. Because we did not have too many children in the ward at the moment, I could give Hawukelani the intensive care he needed.

I began to get involved with him and for him more and more. He was quite weak and we managed to make him recover a bit again. It was a continuous up and down. One day he was well and a few days later his diarrhoea was back and he was vomiting again. Later he improved again. But for the last two weeks we became weaker and weaker. He could hardly eat and drink for the last few days. I realised how this little one grew more and more close to my heart and I gave him more and more time and love. This is what we can give here in abundance.

It is Sunday morning 7 a.m. I enter the children's ward and I notice that Hawukelani is not well at all. His breathing is laboured. I show him to the nurse and she says that he is at a critical stage. I bathe the other babies, but always keep an eye on Hawukelani. I go for breakfast but I have little appetite. My thoughts are rather with Hawukelani. Meanwhile Sister Sheilagh is in the ward and looks after the babies. As I return Sister and Hawukelani are not in the ward any more. I go to the nurses' room, where I find her with Hawukelani on her arm. She is in tears and Father Gerard is there, too. I see that Hawukelani is still alive, but his death seems to be imminent, maybe still today. Sister Sheilagh lays him into my arms and tells me that she is trying to contact his mother. She succeeded and she wanted to come. Meanwhile it is 9:30 a.m. and I go with the dying Hawukelani to church to attend to the service. He is going down continuously and he has hardly left any strength to cry. I saw that he wanted to cry, but he was too weak to do so.

After church I went to the ward and waited for his mother, who arrived a little later. She told me that her entire family was absolutely unaware of Hawukelani's existence and that she used to live on her own with him. It happens quite frequently here that not a single family member wants to have any dealings with a patient as soon as they come to know, that one is HIV-positive or even in the AIDS phase. Both suffer from AIDS, Hawukelani and his mother. That is why she had been shunned by her family, even before her pregnancy was evident and the father also did not want to have anything to do with her any more. She phoned him nevertheless and told him that Hawukelani was about to die. Although he promised to come he failed to do so. Meanwhile is was 11:30 a.m. and Hawukelani became increasingly quiet. The breathing pauses became longer and longer. He became weaker and weaker and looked totally relaxed. His mother and I were in tears and we could do nothing but wait and wait and pray and hope. Hope that he would be at a better place soon. He breathed his last at 12:10. This was a great pain, because I had loved him so much.

We laid him onto the bed and both of us cried. He looked so peaceful and sweet as he was lying there. Hawukelani's mother probably cried also because she was totally alone now. Both of us were very sad and will miss him a lot.

Our nurse on duty was also very nice to me. She said: "We are about to go out by ambulance to fetch a patient. Come! You drive! You have to get out of here now!" That was really nice of her. Gloria from the laundry also said she sympathised and she always would have noticed with how much love I look after the little ones and when I would one day knock at the pearly gates, the Lord God will say: "Come, Angelika, there are all your babies! Go to them!" It touched me deeply that she said such a thing. I did not feel well for the whole day and I know that it will not be the last time for a child to die here, as a hospice is usually the "last station" of earthly life. If we succeed to make this a dignified experience of love and comfort we have fulfilled our task indeed.

Angelika Müller

* The name Hawukelani (Zulu for "have mercy") is not his real name.


This page is part of the Newsletter No. 27 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard




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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:50:18