One scene replays in my head again and again.
She is incoherent, babbling, calling out, her arms waving wildly as she searches with half- blind eyes. "Etwana ayong!
I am dying.
I take her grasping hand in mine. I lean close and speak clearly, "Ayeni".
She quiets. Her searching eyes find my face. She whispers now, eyes locked with mine, "Etwana ayong".
I answer again, "Ayeni. Encoriana? Are you afraid?"
"Eh," she replies, still holding my gaze and gripping my hand fiercely.
Kenneth calls as I'm making lunch.
"I'm bringing home a new roommate."
"Oh? Who is it?"
"An old woman I found in the village, starving to death. She's in pretty bad shape. She may not make it, but I couldn't leave her there. Her family abandoned her, and she's been lying alone in her hut for who knows how long."
Believe it or not, this is not commonplace in our house, the care of starving, dying people, but I'm up for it I think.
But it was worse than he claimed. She was just a bag of bones. A heavy bag of bones, but bones none-the-less. Too weak to sit, eyes swollen shut, feet and hands swollen and useless, ugly infected wound on her leg, and hadn't eaten in days. She was incoherent and confused, but she could still eat. And still complain.
"It's dark out here. (she was inside and it was daytime.) Have you started cooking yet?"
"Yes, I'm making you some porridge."
"I don't want porridge. I want posho! (Kind of like very thick, tasteless mashed potatoes.)"
"Ok, what would you like on your posho? Beans? Cabbage?"
"No, sugar. I want posho and sugar."
Ha. Spunky old thing.
We bathe her, possibly for the first time in months. Kenneth teases her about getting ready for a dance, and she falls for it, hook, line and sinker. She doesn't know where she is, and for once since coming here I am not treated differently because of my skin color. She can't see me. I wash her hair, washing away months of dirt and grime. I scrub her calloused feet, and the water turns dark. We rub her with lotion and tuck her into our bed with its clean sheets and soft mattress. I comb her hair. She smells lovely, fresh and clean. We hold her hand and stroke her swollen, useless fingers. We pray over her that God will be glorified through her life. We find ourselves already loving this crotchety, confused old woman.
A restless day follows an even more restless night. Her leg is worse despite the antibiotics, and she is in constant pain. She is mostly incoherent, not understanding what is happening around her. Pain seems to be her only reality. She sleeps off and on, refusing food, waking to babble about people and places we don't know. We share with her about Jesus' love for her. We pray for God's mercy. She is close to giving up.
We spend the next few days going back and forth in response to her calls. She is asking for people we don't know. She is confused. She cries out in pain as we try to lift and carry her to our homemade toilet. She is already past the point of needing it. Fear fills her eyes as she talks with people we can't see. Her constant refrain is, "Etwana ayong." She is dying.
My children come in periodically to check on me and the old woman. I don't want to leave her alone in her suffering. They sit by her bed.
"Mommy, is she going to die?"
"Yes, I think so. Hopefully soon because she is in a lot of pain."
"I don't want her to die."
"Neither do I, especially because she doesn't know Jesus."
And more conversation follows. About what happens after our deaths, about whether death is an enemy or a friend, about who is waiting for us on the other side. They are curious, asking many questions, but not fearful. My children know their Savior lives, and their eternity is secure. I don't have the same confidence for her. I pray desperately and constantly like Bartimeus, "God, have mercy on her, a sinner!" She is slipping away.
That evening we finally give her some stronger pain medicine, and she slips into a restless sleep. Sometime during the night her sleep becomes a coma, and she doesn't wake again. One more day of suffering, of ragged, uneven breaths, and she is gone.
It is hard to relay the events of the past week but we have learned in all of our troubles, trials and difficulties to pray and ask God that He would use it to glorify himself. God and His glory is what we are after. We are heartbroken because we know that no one in that village has ever heard of the love of Christ but we are also hopeful because our care for her has given us a place in her community. We are meeting with the people of that village and sharing the hope with them that is Christ Jesus. We know that we serve a God who brings beauty from ashes.
Thank you Father for showing yourself to us through the eyes of an old grandmother.
"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." Hebrews 3:15
Eternity is just a breath away.