His skin has a sallow color, his lips dry. He is extremely weak, dehydrated, and unbelievably thin. The odor of death, sweet and it stains my nostrils.
Somehow watching him struggle to breathe, robs me of my own breath.
He stopped eating and drinking 5 days ago. He obviously hasn’t bathed in weeks. His fingernails are caked with dirt, his ears oozing infection. I mentally make notes.
Whatever was killing him, no one had been taking care of him, that was sure.
Funny, Lord. A hospice has been on my heart for 2 years now, where people could die in peace and safety and be given some sense of human dignity back, even if only for their last moments. But then, You know that, God. And You also know I am extremely busy and short of funds…
I stared, unable to speak to the brother that brought this man. I had no words.
Another death… sigh. Who will hold his hand as he struggles? Who will sit by his bed?
No, I simply can’t take him in. I am not a hospice yet. Nor do I have extra money to buy oxygen that I know he needs. I’m out of pain medication. There are many logical reasons. I was raised to think logically.
“That’s the problem with you Christians humanitarians…you can’t stay focused. You’ll help anyone…”
“You can’t afford this…”
“It’s not your problem. You don’t even know his name…”
I walk slowly to the back room and close the door. My chest tight. Mandy and Angel are there organizing medicines. My tears stun me and I repeat what my mind plays over and over- the reasons why I should not help this man.
But my heart… And a still small voice.
This is the least of these, my daughter.
Am I imaging this? Being emotional?
And cool, rational Mandy says, “Ate? What does your heart say?”
“To keep him,” I say quietly, wiping my eyes.
“I’ll get the bed ready,” she says quietly.
I want to weep… I want to fall on the floor and weep but I do not ever seem to have that luxury.
Back in the waiting area, I put my arm around the young man turning to the brother. “I am not a doctor, kuya. But I know he is dying. I cannot heal him, but I will care for him. I don’t know what God will do. We must just pray.”
He nods and I see the tears of relief in his eyes, as he turns and leaves.
The room is hushed as I tuck him into the bed in our back room. All are focused on the rhythmic motion of his chest and the sound of his labored gasps for air…
I pat his hand and rub his shoulder.
Suddenly I realize… I do not know his name…