That stirred my tears. Sometimes it isn’t so much how you live as how you die. The veil between heaven and earth sometimes shows as very thin. The things that Dudu imparted to those who loved her and sat with her in her suffering are richer treasures that you find in most other places in life. The most precious of gems are formed in the dark, under pressure, but see how they shine and make us gasp at their beauty when they are finally brought out into the light.
Today, we reached the end of our journey with her as Pamela describes here.
When my World Race squad was in Swaziland back in January, a few of
my teammates had the opportunity to minister to a woman named Dudu.
Dudu is 27 years old and has been living with AIDS and TB. Back in
January her situation seemed hopeless and the hearts of my teammates
broke over this woman’s condition. The loved her and cared for her, and
even spent time with her in the hospital. I never met her back then,
but heard story upon story about her. Their time spent with her was
also a process of “learning to die” with her, and understanding what it
means to minister to someone who is past medical help. They left Swazi
thinking that she would pass away very soon.
Since returning to Swazi, I was completely surprised
to learn during our first week that Dudu was still alive, living across
the street with her mother, father, sisters, and her son. When I found
out, I was completely overjoyed. I couldn’t believe that this woman who
I heard so much about in January as being on her deathbed was still
here. Her situation was still heartbreaking, spending most of her days
lying on the bed and struggling to speak, but she was still here. Our
a little in the beginning with how to minister to someone in her
condition, but as the weeks went by they grew in their ability to love
her and care for her in beautiful ways. I saw the Lord sustaining her
and saw it as a gift that we got to love her. Even last week, her son
turned one year old and we were able to throw him a birthday party.
That was the only time I was able to go to her house and I got to sit
with Dudu, feed her birthday cake, and hold her hand. She is so
Every day that the girls go to Dudu’s, they never
know what to expect. On the ‘good’ days, her family sits her on the
porch and she is able to speak a little; and on the ‘bad’ days, she is
confined to her bed and it takes every ounce of energy to eke out the
smallest of sounds. This past Wednesday, our girls went over to her
house for a visit. Dudu was lying in her bed looking so small and weak.
Even though her condition looked bad, it is usually the most common.
They sat with her, prayed with her, and read her letters they had
written for her. Though those days are hard, it is beautiful to be able
to sit with someone in their pain and let them know how much God loves
them, that they are not forgotten.
A few hours after the girls had gone to see her, one
of our translators came to our house to tell us that Dudu had passed
away. Our girls just broke. Though this news wasn’t necessarily
unexpected, we really didn’t think it would happen. There was sadness
and anger and helplessness. Having to face the reality of death in this
place is almost unbearable. To see this beautiful, 27 year old woman
with a one year old child be taken away from this world in such a
painful way is heartbreaking. Everything about it shows the injustice
and sin of this world, and being faced with it in such a real way can
be incredibly overwhelming.
In the midst of all this sadness, our role in her
life was not finished. Erica and I drove Dudu’s family, along with
Dudu’s lifeless body to the funeral home and helped her mother and
sister pick out a coffin. I don’t think the gravity of all of that has
settled in yet, but I can truly say I felt so honored to be able to do
this for Dudu. I know her life has touched so many people. Countless
teams have come through this place with the intent of ministering to
her, but I feel like she has been able to minister to them as well. She
taught them how to love and serve and understand not only the reality
of death but the beauty of praising God in the midst of it. She taught
them how to sit with her in her suffering, and love her when there was
nothing else to do. Every team left this place saying goodbye to Dudu
and didn’t know how long she had; but we were here to say the final
goodbye, knowing that the next time we meet we will never have to say
it again. And even though it is hard to be here right now going
through this loss, I rejoice in knowing that she is in Heaven, standing
before her Father, praising His name and no longer living under earthly
pain. Her body has been restored and it is beautiful.
This is touching and proves again the “Christophenes”– or unexpected sightings– of Jesus are found in the hard, suffering and often mundance places of life.
My own father took more than twenty years to die of Huntington’s Disease. It was a long and descending staircase which in the end had one last step…then a gasp…then eternity.
We lose so much by sequestering ourselves from the dying.
For in the moments of standing with them and serving their obvious needs we are often catching heavenly breezes and the wafting wonder.
We learn by loving and lingering with those who are soon
The dying are on an earlier flight to a common destination.
We all will go.
So thankful, for so many on the teams, to comfort Pamela.
I wish I had someone to guide me,,,to know what to do, how to be what Jesus would have me to be, when my brother with HIV, died 15 yrs. ago this week. I loved him the best I knew how at the time.
Dear KS, if you loved your brother the best you knew how at the time, it will have been enough. Expressions of love are not uniform, there isn’t a right way to do it. Think back to the loaves and the fishes story about Jesus. He takes what is small and insignificant compared to the need and He makes it enough, in fact He makes it abundantly more than is just enough. He still does that with the little we have again and again. My bet is that He will have done that with the love you offered.
I have thoughts like that about my brother. He died 30 years ago now, aged 17. I have had the “wish I could have done more” and the “if only I had known then what I know now, I could have done it differently” thoughts and a myriad of others. But there is no safer place for you to leave your brother and mine than in the hands of the Jesus who loves them more than we ever could, and Who will have used more than we know the little we feel we gave.
Your report about Dudu reminded me of the Lord himself, who taught us not only how to live, but also how to die. We will all have to learn that lesson eventually.
Keep up the good work.
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