In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Letting Go

Wideline's father has dark, glowing skin and smiling eyes. Even in his deep grief, those eyes smiled on me, inviting me to talk with him, share with him. He was softly spoken and would not try to compete with the din of the generator close by. To hear him, I had to incline myself towards him. The exchange that followed was heartrendingly honest in its simplicity.

'The mother of my children, my first born children is seriously ill. She is so swollen her stomach is this big,' he told me, indicating on his own frame, the extent to which his partner's stomach had swollen. The lady has post-partum cardiomyopathy. It is a serious and life-threatening condition, and American missionaries that run the isolated clinic in Cazale are treating her.

'First my son died, and now my daughter. The lord gave them to me, and then he took them away, and I have to say, 'Thank you Lord,' but I have to know what happened to them.'

For a few moments, his open question hung in the air. As truthfully but as gently as possible, Mme bernard and I went on to explain: The babies were premature, growth retarded in utero, and very, very fragile. Their father nodded. Yes, he knew that. We didn't know why his son died, because we never met him, but by the time Wideline came to us, she was dehydrated and malnourished and her temperature was low, and her body was on the brink of shutting down.

She responded to treatment, and we hoped that she would do well. We did what we thought was right. Looking back, we think she had an intestinal infection that did not respond to the antibiotics. Her body began to swell and she began to bleed under the skin (we think because of malnutrition and infection.) We did everything we knew to do, including changing the antibiotics, giving blood to correct her anaemia, lots of medicines to get her kidneys working........ She stopped breathing and we resuscitated her, but she was not responding to treatment. Her skin was peeling off all over, her body becoming ever more swollen. When she stopped breathing the second time,  we saw that treatment wasn't having an effect, and the baby was suffering, so we let her go.

As we talked, Wideline's Father continued to nod. He was unceasingly gracious. Someone came in with a photograph. I cringed inwardly. The photographs that they gave him were taken after the baby had died, when she was a bloated, bruised, bloody mess. There was nothing gentle about this!

The man's response surprised me. A light of understanding dawned on his face. 'Oh, yes. Oh, yes, I see. Thank you, ladies!'

It was a very sincere thank you, but for what?

I can see now, that she was suffering. Thank you for all the care you gave her. Thank you for letting her Go.

And that was a kind of closure for both of us. For the bereft father, and for the nurse who made tough decisions, in the absence of the baby's parents. We had acted according to what her father wished for her. The Father who had made the three and a half hour journey from Cazale to Thomassin and back three times in a week. No small feat for an impoverished Haitian family.
Life while she gripped on to it. And then a release. That is what he wanted for his precious daughter.

'I believe she is in heaven.'
'I do too.'

And this was no empty platitude - the bible teaches that the dead in Christ will rise first, and I handed Wideline over to God when she was critically ill.

We look forward to the glorious reunion, that is promised, knowing that Wideline precedes us in the assent heavenwards.

We still struggle with the injustice of her suffering, even as we accept that the secret things belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29).

One day we will understand. One day.


Katie said...

These beautiful, beautiful fathers. God breeds them strong and gracious and humble in Cazale.

Wideline has peace now. It's hard to believe, but it sounds almost as if - despite the intense pain - her papa has some peace, also.

Love to you, Mme Bernard & the nannies.
Amazing women of God.

Marie said...

What a pleasure it was to meet you last week. I will forever remember my time at GLA. I admire all your hard work and dedication...I see HIM in you and it inspires me...thankyou! I continue to pray for all of you as you work through losing very sorry.