Tuesday, April 24, 2012

a passion for service

 Today's guest is my favorite doctor.  His kindness, compassion, and life of service are a beacon, not only to those he serves, but to those of us with whom he shares his stories.  If you don't know Maithri Goonetilleke yet, get ready to fall in love. 

Mynah is my friend. Her frail body reminds me of the fever trees that grow by the side of the road in many parts of the Lubombo area. Slender and delicate, and yet strangely luminous, unmistakeably alive.

Known for her quiet strength and a wide unforced smile, she has lived her 74 years in the red dust hills of Makhewu.

Mynah had five children. All of them contracted HIV/AIDS during their lifetimes.

One by one Mynah watched them suffer and die. And as each one passed away, she took in their children, her newly orphaned grandchildren into her little cement home with two rooms.

At last count there are 17 children staying with Gogo Mynah. Two more are on the way.

One day, while out walking with my friend Make Nomsa Bhembe, we stopped at Mynahs house and saw the children playing barefoot outside.

We thought we would stop by and say hello to our friend and maybe play a game with the children.

As I walked into her house, the faint scent of urine hung in the air. Thats what happens when 17 children sleep together in one room. A little baby was fast asleep in the corner.

Mynah was standing by a dusty, yellow wall, her whole attention focussed on something she was holding in her hand.

"What’s that?" I asked, smiling broadly. She jumped. Startled by my presence.  After greeting us with a fond embrace, she answered. 

"Rat Poison,".

"Gogo are the rats bothering you?" I asked. Nomsa translated.

"No. The rats are ok. This is for me!” She laughed.

“For you?” We were both concerned.

“I would not take it. Don’t worry. Its hard sometimes when all your children have died. When every day you have to look after 17 babies. I feel like theres no point sometimes.

“What stops you Gogo?” Nomsa asked.

“The children. I hear them playing outside. I know they need me. I am all they have in this world.”

“So this is a decision you made a long time ago Gogo, to never take this rat poison?”

“No.” she continued in Si Swati shaking her head –“ It’s a decision I make every day. Every day I think about it. I know exactly where it sits on the shelf. But every day I hear those children playing.”

So I say to myself “Not today.”

From Siteki with Love,



"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

Oh my...

And we sometimes think we have it a bit hard, in our lives. For this or that reason. Aches and pains of age, for instance. It rains, when we want sunshine. Someone doesn't agree with *our* way of doing things. Etc. Etc.

To read this...

And then to consider our wee little bits of being uncomfortable...


Anonymous said...

Totally humbling: I feel ashamed of myself for feeling I have things to complain about. God bless them all.

Marilyn said...

He definitely has passion and life stories to share that touch the heart. I can't even imagine living with rat poison on my shelf, but listening to the children playing. Thanks for sharing this very touching and true story.

Debby said...

What a wonderful story. She has such a heart.
I must say I felt close to that while raising my adopted son. Hate to admit it but it was so hard on us and on him. Everyday was such a struggle with his behavior and others towards him. But you have to count your blessings when times are difficult.
Thanks for sharing.

Dandy said...

This post will stay with me forever. To make the decision to live, every day, in the face of so much adversity. Beautiful and haunting.

GraceGal said...

What an inspiring post ! No matter where we live, every day we have a choice to choose life. This brave woman reminds us of reasons to do just that. Saying a prayer for her tonight.

Ms. K @ Write On Thyme said...

Wow! What a beautiful, yet sad post. To look at rat poison and decide daily whether it's going to be yes or no today. Thank you for touching me with these lives today. I'm with the last commenter: saying a prayer.

susanna said...

Oh my...wow. I really don't know what to say. Gogo is an incredibly strong woman and I need to be more appreciative for the life I have.

Simone said...

I just saw this Relyn and it was powerful for me. Going through some tough medical issues right now, I sometimes wonder if life would just be better if....but then, like Mynah, I am reminded that there is much living still to do. Thank you.

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