Church prepares, comforts Jonathon in parent's death


Originally written in April 2008

Jonathon’s parents, David and Sarah, are dying of AIDS in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. A local church has been visiting them for months, providing antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s), other medications and meals, as well as school fees and tutoring sessions for eight year-old Jonathon. Various church volunteers help to bathe, feed and pray for the ailing family with regular visits each week. David and Sarah really look forward to the company since the members of the church are now the only people that come by to visit. Others in the community have long since stayed away, scared by the evil ‘stigma and spirits’ of HIV/AIDS.

David and Sarah’s fragile bodies were far too damaged during a prolonged period without access to ARV’s and proper care and nutrition. Their deaths are imminent.

The church is working to preserve family stories and memories for Jonathon. A book has been compiled with narratives on how David and Sarah met, fell in love and got married. Other pages chronicle broader family and clan history and give an account of their move from the village ten years ago. Additional entries tell of how Jonathon was given his name and of a younger sister that died when he was four years old. Jonathon’s young life is described in detail and his parents include letters to him, imparting blessings and giving him instructions for a life worthy of the family name and heritage. Interspersed between the pages are the few fading photos that the family possesses.

The book is placed into a keepsake box, along with what meager items the family treasures – a small wood carving of an elephant that Jonathon chose on a visit to the Rift Valley, his first t-shirt emblazoned with Tweety Bird, Sarah’s heart-shaped locket (the only piece of precious-metal jewelry she has ever owned), and the broken spectacles of their daughter who had also succumbed to the ravages of AIDS.

As a result of all their home visits, and the thorough process of establishing a memory book for Jonathon, the church has an intimate knowledge of his past and potential. They know his parents well; know their hopes and dreams for him.

Jonathon has no extended family in the slum. Relatives in their village of origin either scattered long ago or have no desire to welcome the son of AIDS victims into their families.

For Jonathon, the church’s family-style home is his only hope.

But he knows these people, has played with them, prayed with them. They are his friends. The family that is taking him in has visited his parents on many occasions and helped him with his homework. He is comfortable with them. He watched them nurture his parents. He will watch them give his parents a decent and dignified burial.

The pain will still be initially unbearable. But most of the deep and long psychological scars will be averted.

Jonathon will never have to wonder about who his parents were and struggle with being a person without a history, dropped off on the doorstep on an institutional orphanage.

He will be more whole.

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You can help children like Jonathon by getting involved in our Home for the Holidays campaign or starting an online fundraising campaign.

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