East Africa, 2007:
“Mama, we have the medication for your girls, and they seem to be doing well. But I’m worried about you. You are very ill. The medicine doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did before.” I tried to keep the language simple—for the sake of my interpreter and for the Mama. She was a widow. AIDS had already claimed her husband.
As with the woman in Central America, I suspected that the husband had been unfaithful while working out of town, and had brought the dreaded disease home. But in this case, the demon had its claws into the children too. It was heartbreaking. She was too sick to work anymore. She survived on the charity of neighbors and missionaries.
“How long will I live?” she asked quietly, meeting my gaze.
“I’m not sure. Maybe a year. Maybe more. Maybe less.”
“They are doing well. They could live a long time.” I honestly had no idea.
The unspoken question hung in the air, “What will happen to my children?”
“What can I do?” I thought. “In a month, I’m going to be back in
America. I may never be in this village again.”
We sat in silence. Eventually I offered to pray with them, which they
accepted graciously. “Come to the house,” I offered. I turned to the
children, “Mama (my wife) has some sweaters to give you girls.” I
hoped my smile seemed genuine.
“I’ll see you next week?” I said to their retreating backs. Mama
looked over her shoulder and tried to smile.