Last week Boniface died. Many of you read my post about him, so I wanted to share this news, and also my thoughts about it.
The week before he died, I went to visit him again. I brought him some packets of fortified lentils from our partner, Feeding Children Everywhere, because he had told me that it was hard for him to eat anything. I thought those packets would help him because even eating a little of that would provide him with more nutrients than what he was getting. I also brought him a book, because the last time I had visited him, he made me promise to bring him one.
After that last visit with him, I had left feeling discouraged. He was always happy to see me, but the way he treated his mother and family, and the way he spoke to my colleagues – the ones who visited him, cared for him, bathed him, clipped his nails, the ones who had brought him to the hospital weeks before and made sure he got the correct medicine – was ugly. When he spoke to them there was so much anger in his eyes. He threatened them, and told them to shut-up. It was clear he had so much bitterness in him. In his pride he lashed out at the very ones who were doing everything they could to help him.
When I learned that he died, it was hard to accept. I got a text from Esther, our health counselor in that community. I called her and we grieved together over the phone. She kept saying, “I just can’t believe it, Ryan.” Later that day, she visited his family and texted me to confirm that he was, in fact, dead. I tried to encourage her. I can’t imagine how she felt knowing that he was gone, after all of the time and care she invested in him. We all wanted him to get better. We wanted him to be another success story.
As I processed it, I had many feelings and thoughts. Alongside the feeling of grief, I had one feeling that made me feel guilty and confused. In some way, I was relieved that he died. I don’t know if that feeling is right. It doesn’t seem like it’s right. But, I feel it. I care deeply about my colleagues who were caring for him – and, in addition to him, caring for about seventy other people in their community living with HIV. The way he treated them and spoke to them – with such anger and ugliness – made me feel protective of them. I am relieved that they no longer have to deal with him. I am not saying I am happy he died, and i don’t think they would agree with what I’m feeling. I wanted so badly for him to regain his life. But, it’s like he didn’t want to improve. In his pride he chose bitterness and spurned the very people who cared most about him.
Yesterday, I was speaking to one of my colleagues, Francis, a man I greatly admire and respect. I told him how I was feeling about this. In a vulnerable moment I asked, “why did our program fail Boniface?”
Francis, who has been working with us for many years as a Regional Coordinator, and is a wise, and joyful man, sighed. He reminded me that no matter how good and perfect our program is, it is useless unless our clients accept it, unless they want to get better and implement the things we train them and counsel them on. The biggest barrier to accepting and implementing these things is pride – pride which often manifests as bitterness and anger.
I still grieve the loss of Boniface. It’s harder to take because I believe that he had every opportunity to improve. I’ve seen so many people in his same condition get out of their bed in a matter of weeks because they accept the support we offer.
My colleague and friend, Molly, reminded me not to force a lesson or meaning from this. Sometimes things happen that we don’t want to happen, and there’s no reason for it. It was a good reminder to accept this for what it is; to accept it as a reality of living in a world where we don’t have control.
After accepting that, I was left with a question:
What about me and you?
Are you refusing love, or friendship, or assistance from someone because of your pride?
Have you given up on someone because they refused you out of pride?
In a world where we can’t control everything, let’s control one thing: let’s give and receive love.
As you remember Boniface, I hope you will remember that.
If you pray, i just ask you to keep the family of Boniface in your prayers, as well as Esther and David who served and loved Boniface to the last moment.
Thank you for reading.
“Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude.
It does not demand it’s own way.
It is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices in truth.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
-1 Corinthians 13: 4-7