Youn Moman en Ayiti
It was an absolutely sweltering day, as are most August days in Haiti are. I was just finishing work at Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Port-au-Prince. The morning had been hard with more than the usual amount of dressings to change and so little healing apparent.
I sat down on the bed of one of my favourite ladies. She had end-stage AIDS. She was literally skin and bone, but her sense of humour had not left her and I always enjoyed a few moments with her before leaving for the day.
Her lunch had been brought to her- consommé because it was all she could keep down now, but she hadn't touched it. Shyly, she asked me for a Juna, the cloyingly sweet juice-like drink ubiquitous on the streets of P-au-P.
I gladly gave one of the helpers the 3 gourdes (about 12 cents) that would bring the treat, adding some extra to buy one for herself.
My lady smiled when the cold bottle was placed in her hand. But first, she wished to pray.
We said a short "grace" and then, as was the custom, I asked her if she also wanted to pray to go to Jesus, now. This was a joke between us. Usually she'd answer "poko" (not yet), but today she said "Li la" (He's here). Jokingly, I told her to drink up before He decided it was time to go, and making a small noise meant to be a giggle, she started to remove the foil that covered the mouth of the bottle.
Suddenly, she stopped and reached up to hand it to me. Thinking it had been too hard for her frail fingers, I pried off the top and went to hand the drink back. What happened next, I can still see and feel as clearly as if she was in front of me, now. She held up her hand. I stopped. "Ou premye", she told me. Me first? Me? Robust, able to eat anything I wanted and with money to do just that, ME!??
I tried to tell her I couldn't, but she was insistent. She said that I must be thirsty too, and that she wanted to help me as I had helped her. Tears stung my eyes, and though I dislike Juna immensely, I took a swallow and handed it back. Her smile broadened.
When I came in the next day, her bed was empty. Apparently Jesus had not left without her.