Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Monday evening our friend Sipho passed away. Sipho was a father, a husband, and a man with a gentle spirit. His name means “gift,” and he was just that for me and others who knew him. Sipho was living with HIV (and, in his case, TB, oral thrush, wasting disease, dehydration, and probably esophageal cancer). His wife Pamela is also HIV positive and has Multi Drug Resistant TB.

Megan and I spent most of the day Monday with Sipho at Ngangelizwe Clinic pleading with nurses and doctors to help rehydrate him and make a plan for further treatment. We ended up seeing a kind doctor who gave Sipho a liter of fluid and us instructions to run further tests in the coming days. Jenny picked Sipho up from the clinic and drove him home. He insisted on walking up to his tin house, painted a pale pink, that sits on the edge of a hill beside the clinic. Jenny received a call from his oldest child at around six in the evening, in the middle of a torrential rainstorm, to say that he was gone.

Sipho’s partner Pamela, and his three children have also come to mean a great deal to me as I’ve gotten to know them through the clinic and tutoring after school. They have lost a significant piece of their family, and the larger community feels that loss as well. I am struggling to reconcile my feelings surrounding this loss and the awful pain and hunger Sipho felt in the days and weeks before his death.

A new friend, Mary-Ann Carpenter, shared this prayer with Megan and me Saturday evening while we were in Durban last weekend. The Carpenter family is a living example of how reconciliation and beauty can come out of brokenness and despair. It has come to mind many times this week.

Dear God,

We struggle, we grow weary, we grow tired. We are exhausted, we are distressed, we despair. We give up, we fall down, we let go.

We cry.

We are empty, we grow calm, we are ready.

We wait quietly.

A small, shy truth arrives. Arrives from without and within. Arrives and is born. Simple, steady, clear. Like a mirror, like a bell, like a flame. Like rain in summer. A precious truth arrives and is born within us. Within our emptiness.

We accept it, we observe it, we absorb it. We surrender to our bare truth. We are nourished, we are changed, we are blessed. We rise up.

For this we give thanks.


-Michael Leunig

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