All Mondays are tough for me. I always wish the weekends would last longer, so I wake up late drag myself across the floor do everything so slow that I almost get on my patient husband’s nerves. I count myself lucky because it is on one of those terrible MONDAYS, the 14th of September 09 that I found out the importance of family. I was having my usual Monday morning blues plus some unsettled feeling in my tummy.
I didn’t quite understand where the feeling was coming from. At around 10:30am GMT, I received a phone call from my dad who had traveled to Western Kenya visiting family. The minute I saw his call my heart skipped a bit. I knew somehow the call was connected to my
unsettled feeling. It was an emergency. My dad’s younger brother Michael, who is not quite ok, had run away from home and was found in a garbage dump almost dying.
Since we are the only family he has, my dad called me, frantic. My younger sister, my husband and I were the only people who could come to his rescue. To cut the long story short, we managed to get him admitted to a government district hospital (read under equipped and overcrowded). Now it happens that when one goes to a district hospital, the underpaid nurses are there to be seen and heard but seldom do any work. The patient’s relatives have to take care of everything, from feeding to washing the clothes (they don’t have hospital robes) to bathing.
It was while taking my uncle to the ward that I met James. My uncle was to share a small hospital bed with this man. James had the body of a child and the face of an old man. In other words it was the face of AIDS at its best. It was the saddest sight of a human being I have ever seen, skin and bones. Yet James had a very kind heart and warm personality. He welcomed my uncle warmly and offered him the pillow. That really caught my attention because normally when one is sick they don’t want to be bothered, leave alone share a bed or give
up their pillow. So we left my uncle, who in comparison to James looked ten times better, in the care of James.
The following day my sister Pauline and I took turns visiting my uncle. We agreed that she would go for the lunch hour visit and I for the evening visit. So my sister prepared some food and took it to my uncle and I came later in the evening. It was on that visit that I got curious why I hadn’t seen anyone visiting James, so I asked him about his family. James had no family.
His mother passed away in 1999 of AIDS, and your guess could be as good as mine, he was born with AIDS. When he was born, nobody would speak about AIDS openly. People would not even mention it by name it was only mentioned by nicknames (in my tribe they called it ‘Chira’- which is another name for bewitched).
So that explains why he never knew of his condition until he grew older. When his mother died, James and his younger sister had no one to turn to because their relatives turned them away. They dreaded the disease, they never knew their father. As he sister grew older she lost her mind and now wanders the streets. James had survived by hopping from one friend’s house to another or by sleeping at parking lots and eating food from the dumpster. He narrated his story with a lot of pain in his eyes, but he wasn’t able to shed a tear.
He could have, but there were no tears, not even enough to moisten his sore throat. He summed it up for me: “Lucy I wish I had a family!” In all his pains and struggles, all he ever wished for was a FAMILY!
The following Sunday, we visited James again. Even though he could barely stand and had no place to go, the doctor wanted to discharge him. Unfortunately in Kenya, there are no hospices or care centers for people like James, a discharge would mean sudden death. ‘Lucy, my greatest problem is that I don’t have a home’, he told me. So there I was, a good “Christian Lady”, where was I going to start, how was I going to tell him that God cared for him? What in his life was evidence that God cared for him? How was I going to reach out to this 22 year old who felt like killing people at times? I had no immediate answer for this puzzle.
All I managed to do was to tell him that we are God’s children and we were his family.