For this year’s World AIDS Day I want to repost an older Soul Surmise blog. They are the beautiful words of my friend Miriam Kennedy who was on two teams to Cape Town when I was Chaplain at Queen's University, Belfast back in the noughties. When she read her diary awhile back it moved me deeply. I too remember Mavis and the woman I visited the same day Sindy with fondness and believe they touched my life... May it help World AIDS Day open your eyes to the plight of millions and millions just like Mavis.
“Monday 24th July 2006
Today was such an emotional day, we bought the rest of our hamper goodies and went to JL Zwane the church in Gugulethu. We were given a chat about the community and the issue of aids in the township area, we then had tea and a tour around the church. We then went in groups into homes to visit people with aids. We visited a 32 years old Mum, with two kids living with her mother and sister. Her name is Mavis and she has Aids and pneumonia, it was really sad, her home was so warm as she had a heater right beside her, she snuggled into layers of blanket and she was so tired and weak. Her mother welcomed us and we gave them the duvets and hampers. Out of everything we brought she was most excited about the shoes and oranges. We started talking to her about her medicine and life with aids, she began to weep. Gordon took her by her hand and told her that we would be praying for her continually and that her beautiful face would be etched in our minds forever. She said thank you. It was so sad we all cried, she wept and explained that she experiences pain in her side and neck. She says she is bored of the medication and that it has to be taken very strictly and regularly. It causes her to feel dizzy and queasy. It was terrible to see her in so much pain and naturally worrying for her children. What was evident were her children’s own fears for their future if Mavis is to leave them. Her children are 14 and 6, the experience was overwhelming. To actually see someone who is dying of aids and the faith and hope that Mavis has in God was so humbling. When I left the house I cried really hard and I felt bad for crying. I started to think of the health care which is available back home, care which is successful, but Mavis may not get the treatment which she will need to get her through this time in her life. She won’t get the care and support that a person carrying aids or HIV will get back home. I felt for her children, her mother and the heavy burden on their shoulders as Mavis’ carers and also the burdens Mavis feels because of this. I cannot put into words how today has affected me, I was stunned, shocked, I felt beaten into the real world. I felt finally thrashed into a world were lack of food is so likely to kill you, I was confronted by the fact that at home we have the nutrients to rebuild our bodies to strength but here Mavis at times lives on one slice of bread per day. When we came out of her home I was asked how I felt, I couldn’t speak.
A letter written to Mavis in May 2008.
Thank you for opening your home to us two years ago, and for opening your heart to us. When I look back to your face on my photo of us in your house I realise your strength. As a woman you were strong in every sense of the word, as a mother, a sister and as a daughter. I only met you once yet you made me feel happy, sad, content, discontent, at peace and anxious, all at the same time. That in itself is a powerful thing and I say thank you.
It is two years later since I met you and I pray you have reached your 34th year. Your children will be 16 and 8 now and no doubt they have encountered trials and struggles that I can only ever imagine. But you, your children, your mum and your sister have had so much joy in these trials and patience in God’s grace. I’m so sorry for not doing more for you since I’ve returned, you blessed me so much when I met you and I have returned little thanks. I am sorry, but know that I pray for you often and I pray that I will to dance with you and your family in the pews of JL Zwane this summer. I am sorry that my richness causes you pain, illness and fear. But Mavis blessed are you for your humility and hospitality. For Blessed are the poor. I have read in your church ‘Love is greater than time and place, and even greater than death...’
Thank you for the love that you gave to me.
A letter written for World Aids day 2010.
What can I say in honour of a woman that inspired me to try to change the world one piece at a time! This challenge is difficult and most of the time I get side tracked. Mavis since I met you so much has happened, things have changed and things have remained still. I know that you have left this world and you are at peace in heaven. I know that the world is still undivided. I know that God is present in the townships in Cape Town. There have been shifts in politics, but the end result is still the same. Money is power, and power is with the rich. Mavis I sit on my laptop writing this and I have a photo of you on my desk. This photo has sat on many desks in all the rooms I have moved into and out of over the past 4 years. At times I admit that the photo resonates as just a distant memory of the day I brought a hamper to you. But today when reading back on my experience with you and how you inspired me I am driven to readjust my focus and look closer. Today I see you and me smiling, you are wrapped up in layers and I remember wearing clothes which I felt unconfident and insecure in. I was having a bad image day. Your story thrashed me into reality of the things which mattered, things which meant life or death. Family, medication, food, water, heat, sanitation, money and most importantly faith. Mavis today I pray that your mum, sister and children are well and happy. This World AIDS Day I realise that this day is not only about the patients of aids but it is also about the families and friends who have lost their best friend, their soul mate, their rock and their role model.
Mavis thank you for being a female role model for me. I can look to you on my desk when I need to put things into perspective and when I need inspiration.
Praying for your family and giving thanks for your life this world aids day.
All our love,
Miriam on behalf of South Africa Team 2006.