Monday, 13 October 2014

Things fall apart

Today was a sad day.

A 14 year old girl who we have been working with - we will call her Reshma - lost her mother to HIV last month. 

Our staff members and local church volunteers had loved Reshma's mother.  Helped her, cared for her, brought her to JSK for treatment, met her at her home... but tragically she refused treatment and left against medical advice, to what we knew was going to happen.  Death, while still in her late 30s.  Tragic.  Horrible.  Deeply demoralising - especially in the face of so much that was done for her.

And yet even at the end, our staff and the local church folks cared.  They bathed this young woman in her shack.  Cared for her and loved her despite the terrible outcomes of her choices.  And before she died, the mother said that she wanted Reshma, her son Balaji and youngest son Sanjay (who is also HIV positive) to be cared for by the church.

She knew that her own mother was addicted to alcohol, and her husband was a wasted drunk too.  She insisted that it be written out and that she put her 'thumb print' on the document.  A few days later she was dead.

Can things go worse?  Well, life is pretty gritty.

Reshma stopped going to school after the death of her mother.  Her father went back to the bottle with a vengance and has spent the last 2 weeks living under a bridge.  When the family brought him food he waved them away and called for more booze.  

Balaji dropped out of school and began collecting garbage with his grandmother.  At the end of the day he would earn 200 Rs.   Part of this went to alcohol for himself and his grandmother.  Balaji is all of 12 years old.

Sandip fell between the cracks.  He is blind in one eye from an accident many years ago.  He is HIV positive.  A small dwarf of a boy.

And then last week we heard that the grandmother had arranged for Reshma to be married.   The boy and his family had 'come over to see her.'  When they came, they insisted on actually having the engagement then and there.  They had brought some saries and gave it to the grandmother and to Reshma.   The boy is 18.  Reshma is 14.  Any 'marriage' at this age can be criminally prosecuted as rape.  His father is a known drunkard.  And he is a cousin of Reshmas.

Misery loves families.

We heard about this when we met for prayer on Wednesday night last week.  On Thursday Sheba and I were talking about what could be done in what seems the blackest of holes.  The thought of this girl spiralling into the same cycle of destruction as her dead mother had already gone through...

As we talked and prayed the thought struck us that she just has to leave this place.  We contacted a dear friend in Nagpur without much hope that she would be able to take a 14 year old girl... plus her brothers too?

What should we hear but a big 'yes!'

We were stunned.  Our staff brought Reshma and her (paternal) grandmother to the office.  Reshma was ready to go.  But she could not stay in her home.  A loving couple from the church offered to take her in.  Reshma showed up an hour later with a small plastic bag containing her clothes.

And that seemed to be the perfect ending for a horrible, horrible situation.

But it wasn't.

Over the weekend Reshma said that she wants to go back home.  We talked with her.  She changed her mind.  Then she said she wants to go again.  Recycle the conversation.  And again.

This afternoon her (paternal) grandfather and grandmother came to reason with her to stay.  She seemed to change her mind and be willing to carry on with us and the plan for her to go to Nagpur.   But then as the autorickshaw was leaving, she ran out and forced her way in.  Another round of discussion.  But what can we do?  She left.

And to make matters all the more tragic.

Reshma's father died this afternoon.

A young man, in his mid thirties.  Died of booze and HIV and TB and having stopped the treatment that we had started so many times.  Died of hopelessness and squalor.  Lying under the bridge, refusing to be helped.

We don't have any easy answers.  We have to live a day at a time.  An hour at a time.

Eternity is sliced in fine pieces.

But we chose to cling to hope.  And to carry on despite the tsunami of sorrow and anger and confusion that swirls around us.  We will pray and carry on.

And our hope is that our three children Reshma, Balaji and Sandip will be on a train in 4 days, heading for Nagpur.

Things may fall apart.  The centre (if there ever was such a thing) cannot hold. But things will be, will have to be, rebuilt.

Come dear sweet Jesus.  Take us by the hand.  We don't know the way forward.  But we put our hands in yours and ask you to lead us all into a path of life.

1 comment:

  1. Sad.

    Your faith is amazing and inspiring. Stay strong, and thanks for all you do.