An Ended Life/New Beginnings

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Mr. John,”  the voice on the other end of the phone call said, “K isn’t taking her medicine.” “How do you know,”I asked.  The voice on the other end said, “The other patients in the tent told us as soon as we got to the hospital to visit K.” The caller was one of the three ladies in the Heartline program that daily visits with  K in the hospital and who on Sundays goes with her church singing group to visit, pray, and sing to K and the other patients in the big open tent.  K, the sister of one of the young ladies in one of the Heartline programs, was HIV positive and  had TB as well. The hospital is a place where those with HIV and or TB go for treatment.  The tent is one of a couple of dozen on the hospital grounds, where the patients, sleep, live, socialize, and receive treatment.  They sleep on narrow cots, and are attended to by medical people clad in  blue scrubs with light blue  masks that cover their mouths and noses.

K had been there for several weeks and it seemed that she was getting stronger and better as the hospital worked on treating the TB.    A couple of weeks back, she was able to walk, and one day she even walked us around the grounds which have an uneven layer of pea stones that cover the ground on which the tents sit.  She kept a steady balance and I felt encouraged and optimistic for her recovery.  Even the Heartline ladies that daily visit with her said that her face was becoming fuller and that she was gaining some weight.

And then she seemed to lose ground, her face  got thinner as did the rest of her body.  Although I have seen this several times in my years in Haiti, I am always surprised at how thin the human body can get and still have life.

I arrived at the hospital with Josh, a short term missionary to Haiti, and I greeted K and told her that I heard that she has been not been taking her medicine and has been throwing it outside the tent.  She denied it and then from the beds of the other patients came a steady stream of  words all of which confirmed that K had in fact stopped taking her medicine.

Several days went by and K continued to deteriorate;  she could no longer walk or even sit up. And  on Sunday when visiting her after church with the group of 10 Haitian ladies that came to pray and sing, she for the first time  did not even have the strength to sing with the group.

Monday Josh and I visited her again and the three Heartline ladies were there spending time with K. She had not eaten for a couple of days and she had two IVs in her and an oxygen tube in her nose. The other patients seem to know that the end was near and they now looked on quietly and somewhat from a distance. We spent time visiting and prayed and told her that we would be back.  We left the three Heartline ladies there and I told one of the other patients, who clearly cared for K, to call Troy if something happened to K.  Troy called me at about 4:30 PM on Monday, Feb 20th and said that the patient had called him and that K had died.  I received a call several minutes later from one of the Heartline ladies who told me, through her tears, that K had died.

It had been a struggle several years long, most of which was lived in secret. But as her health deteriorated and we became aware that K was HIV positive, the support began to flow.  K did not die alone.  She was surrounded by a support group of people that showed their love by being there  under the tent visiting, praying, encouraging, bringing mangoes and food that she requested, by reading the Bible to her, and by speaking strongly when she stopped taking her medicine.

We often joked that K had enough supplies in her  corner to open up a little store.  Every time I would visit K under the tent, I would look at the supplies of various size plastic containers that held food, water, juice and at the plastic bags of clothes, and at the fan and radio that she had in her corner and I would see more than a cluttered corners of stuff, I would see love, care, compassion, and support.

We will continue to be there for  K’s mom, sister, and family or maybe really we are being there more for ourselves in some kind of way that makes sense as i write this.  We will continue to visit under the tent.  We will continue to visit those that didn’t have to receive a phone call to tell of K’s death. No, they were there, a cot or two away.  My thoughts and prayers are now with them as well.

I saw K touch the lives of the young people that came to visit and sing and pray.  I saw the tentativeness, the uncertainty, perhaps even fear in their faces the first time they entered the tent. And then over the weeks, I have seen relationships built with K and the other patients.  Phone numbers shared, lives that not for K would never have crossed in this journey.

K has not so much died as she has passed as we all will.  She has passed from here to there, and she now awaits us, in His presence.  But until that time, may we seize the day and daily marvel at the gift of life that God has given to us.

Troy and I just returned from the hospital (Tuesday at 11:30 AM) and all that K had is now gone, even the cot is gone and the space that less that a day ago was filled by K and her supplies is now empty.  But the other patients are still there  and there is a new man that we hadn’t seen before.  The patients were happy to see us.  Connections have been made, new connections, new beginnings all because of  K.

Before leaving I asked if it would be okay if I came back to visit them.  They all with huge smiles wanted to know if I could come every day.  I am thankful that through an ending has come a beginning.


  1. licia says:

    Beautiful. I learn each and everytime I am have a child die in my care what a privilage the Lord has given us to be a small part of this beautiful country and to see what strong faith they have in our God. To God be all the Glory!

  2. touching and beautiful story….how old was K? I’m sure she wasn’t all that old. i used to be afraid of death…or being around those who were dying… until i had the awesome experience of caring for my mom with my two sisters, 24/7 for about a year. we were all with her when she died and it was probably the most beautiful experience i’ve ever had…. watching her go off, escorted by angels, to her new home in heaven. i’m so glad that K wasn’t alone… that she was surrounded by friends as she took her last breath… sad, yes to see a loved one go. .to have them leave us… but having our faith and knowing where they have gone is such a blessing…. God bless your ministry at heartline and God bless you, John for sharing this story with us….

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