Posted by Alice Thursday, August 11, 2011
To die alone
I wonder if any of us have ever worried about dying alone. I think it's a fear for some that we may die and no one would know or no one notice, but have you ever worried that you might struggle with a disease and die slowly by yourself? I know, morbid, and especially this early in the am (it's 7 here) but this what we encountered yesterday.
We spent our morning at Mother Theresa's Home for the Dying. I'm sure many of you know of Mother Theresa's work in Calcutta with the dying and sick. Well, she has came to Haiti to start a similar home in port au prince. She reportedly was at this home on her hands and knees scrubbing the floors in preparation for the people to come.
The home is home to more than 100 people of all ages. They have a men's section and a women's section with rooms with about 25 people. The rooms are small with metal beds closely lined up together. It is warm and muggy, but for the most part there is not a feeling of sorrow or sadness that surrounds it. It's not old people..it's people my age, younger, and only a handful older than my parents..and they are dying with no family, no friends, no loved ones to take care of them.
Our visit started with Rebecca the director prepping us for what to expect. As she talked to us, her boys both said mom and pointed behind us. A person was being carried out on a stretcher, sheet atop their body, dead. A sobering sign of what this home was really about. It was our task, we were told, to give dignity to the dying. And so with a couple of tools in hand, we stepped into there lives.
We knelt on the floor and cut finger nails and toe nails and painted them a beautiful pink. We sat in beds and gave massages gently rubbing their backs, their feet, their hands. We handed out cool baby wipes for them to wipe their faces down and cool off just a little. We hoped to be a source of love, comfort, and care to these women.
Many of the women had children and many were younger than me. It was sobering and completely saddening. Many have illnesses that could easily be cured or life sustained in the US but here they cannot. With no family, no one, they come here. They are gentle and they smile and they are kind, but it saddened me deeply.
My morning ended meeting an elderly emaciated woman and having a chance to comfort her in what I am sure was one of her last days in this world. Nothing can prepare you for the emotion that comes with such an act. A humbling, privileged act of love that I was able to share because she allowed me to and God brought me to.
It was a morning that will go down in the history books of my life as full of moments that I had no choice but to rely on God, to believe that my tears were prayers and signs of grace, and to take a hold of the love that I can give as transformational and sustained by the spirit.