, ,

Lola

Anyone that came to Gentle Hands would see lola. Maybe hear lola singing in her beautiful soprano voice or just playing her ukulele. She would say to everyone, “God bless you! Thank you for visiting me.” No matter if it was a 5 minute chat or an hour long.

20130404_GHdswdcandids-4651

She told stories of hiding in the caves when the Japenese came to the Philippines. And as the months went on, and she became more fragile, she remembered her children.

She talked about their stubbornness, their wrongs, but how much she loved them. She wondered where they were and how could she find them. She remembered with so much love and tenderness how she carried them in her tummy and birthed them and then raised them. Each child, she knew.

Poverty and hardship has a way of wreaking havoc on life and relationships. And lola’s children went their separate ways and contact remained minimal. The daughter who cared for her was harsh and often cruel. Burdened perhaps by the pressure and guilt of having little to give to her ageing, ailing mother.

So last year, she fell and broke her hip and almost died. She came to us and recovered enough to become a part of our Gentle Hands family. We loved her. Rarely could you find lola without a child or her caregiver beside her. They would sing, tell stories, and laugh when the same story would be told three times over. They rubbed her little feet and put nail polish on. They gave her letters and drawings and teddy bears. They loved her.

Somehow, the son who she really was close to in earlier years, came with another sister to pick lola up. Lola was so frail. So weak. We had known for weeks the end was near.

As our USA marine visitors prepared to drive lola and her children to the province, we said our goodbyes and prayed.

She put her frail arms around my neck and whispered, ” Neng,” as she always called me, “If I have ever offended you. If I ever did anything to hurt you, forgive me. Please forgive me.”

And I held my breath. “Oh lola… you have done nothing but blessed me. You are so loved.”

She wept tears that ran down my neck.

We released her to her family. Her teddy bears, her clothes, her sheets, pillows, and warm blankets. Everything that she had been given over the year. She told me not to forget her ukulele. I made sure she had it.

It was hard to let them drive away with her… so hard.

On August 25th, Lola went to be with the Lord, just two weeks after we let her go.

She didn’t fit into any of our programs and services but she enriched our lives like we never imagined. She was grandma to our children. She provided rich history for them.

She taught them to respect the elderly and to care for the aged. She couldn’t bake cookies or take them places but she was in every sense of the word, grandma to our children.

And she was lola to me, too.

,

THAT OLD BED

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law said I was sentimental. I hadn’t thought much about it… until two days ago.

I was standing alone, looking at a bed. Read more

, , , , , , , , ,

NO ANSWERS

As the Executive Director of a Child Caring Agency, sometimes my job means doing a little investigating and public relations work. Our children sometimes come to us with little history and we need to uncover where they have come from. 

But honestly, sometimes the things I do in a day seem I am in a movie. Here was one such day last week.

Jail.

For years I have visited jails in the Philippines. Sometimes it is to see wayward boys, sometimes to see people in the community that were wrongly accused. Sometimes it’s for outreach and evangelism. Lately, it seems it is to see parents of children in my custody.

The justice system is a little different here in the Philippines and what you are charged with is often not what you did. You can spend 5 years in prison just waiting to have a sentence. The courts are so backed up. You can also be totally guilty and be let go after only a few months sentence because someone forgot to show up at court.

On this day, I am ushered past the 15 foot walls and guards in to interview again, a mother of 6 of our children. I am always startled when I see her. She is pretty. Her short hair neatly cut and combed. She is chubby, healthy looking. So out of place from where I know she is from and how her children were upon intake to us.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 9.16.12 AM
At the jail where the mother was held

She cannot read or write. Well, her name. But just barely. She tells me over and over that she was not a bad mother. She did everything she could just to take care of them.

I hadn’t asked her anything about her being a mother. And I don’t respond. I need answers to many questions. I need to know the history of these children.

When I ask her why at 4 years old, one does not speak, she tells me I am lying. When I ask her why the little one walks with a limp, she tells me nothing ever happened to him. When she tells me she never hurt her children but her neighbors framed her up, I ask her why. She says they were jealous of her. When I ask why the 3 year old screams in the night almost every night, she tells me he is just like that. When I ask why all the children are full of scars, she says it was her boyfriend’s fault.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 9.14.50 AM

the area where the children played, in front of their house..

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 9.15.31 AM

the home of the children, where they were left by the mother

 I stop asking questions. Maybe I don’t need to know, after all.

I have never been to jail and not left with a prayer over the one I have been there to visit. Today, I didn’t pray.

I leave angry at this mother for what she did to her children. But more angry at the partner who helped her abuse them and did not take care of her and beat her too.

I want to cry, I think. Mostly because the children she abused, I now care for every day. I have spent hours upon hours holding them when they cry, laugh, or scream through a temper fit. I have intentionally taught them that they can trust and they are safe. I have shown them that they are loved so much. When they wake up in the night with terrors, I hold them and sing to them. And sometimes cry tears over them as I pray their hearts would be healed. I have never seen such damaged children.

What horrors would drive a mother to hurt her children? Not just once. But over and over. 

I have no answer.

Hospital.

Philippine General Hospital is one of the top teaching hospitals in the country. We have been referred a child with leukemia and I need to talk with social services and see the child for myself and assess him and how we could best meet his needs.

Sometimes what is written on paper is not really what is the true story and as I stood in the ward looking at the little boy,

His bones were brittle and had been broken accidentally. While they said he was aware, I don’t think he really showed regard for what was going on around him. He smiled yes. But only when touched or when he saw someone come near. More like an involuntary reaction. His hands were now stiff and unusable. He has a tube in his throat to help him breath. He has a tube in his nose so he can eat.

IMG_1440

So I called for the doctor and after an hour discussion, I did agreed to take him. We were all on the same page. While he might recover from leukemia with weekly treatments, he would never return to a happy, normal little boy. His quality of life would be minimal. Very different than the referral stating a full recovery was expected.

If he would have been given continuous treatment, complications would not have happened to lead to this stage. If his father would have been responsible… But then I have never had to deal with my own child being diagnosed with cancer. And I have never been without a support system to help me deal with my children.

IMG_1439

My heart heavy for the child, the father, and the other children whose eyes followed me the whole time I was in the ward.

What is your purpose here, God? 

No answer.

Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa was an amazing woman. She is one of my heroes, actually. The home that is set up in honor of her name here in Manila, takes the “least of these”. But they must be bed ridden and have little chance of recovery. These children are mostly hydrocephalic and have very serious cerebral palsy.

missionariesofcharity

photo from thomasiantriskelion.org site

It has been said to be a dark place. That they do nothing to help or push development. But really, when you look at their children, there is nothing to do to help their development. They need to be fed, cleaned, and loved until their Creator takes them home.

I think what the sisters do, in sacrificing their life to care for these children, is admirable. If I didn’t believe so, I wouldn’t have been able to transfer one of our children there. A decision I made from my desk. I had to.

He woke up as I called his name. He looked around. His eyes have always taken a while to focus. He looked well cared for. He was clean, his clothes nice and fresh. His teeth brushed. Even his hair combed. And my visit was unannounced.

The sister’s voice droned on and on about how they care for the least of these in the name of Mother Teresa. I went deep into my own world of flashing thoughts…

20120124_GH-0137

Did I do the right thing? Was I wrong to transfer him here? But how could we continue to care for him? How could we expect someone to adopt him? Did God understand I had to 
transfer him? How could I even be weighing the pros and cons as though he were a thing… not a child…

How many times had my social worker and caregivers had this discussion. He was already growing tall, though he had no use of his limbs due to severe cerebral palsy.

He was heavy for my small, slightly built caregivers. He was male and we onlyhad female caregivers. He was requiring almost full time care and other children were being neglected. We were not set up for long term care such as he needed. We couldn’t afford to care for him. He wasn’t improving or developing on any level. Still very much an infant on all levels.

I had forgotten to tie my hair up and as I was leaning over his crib looking at him, and replaying the discussions in my head, I was surprised as his stiff little arm reached up and played with my hair.

Not once did he do this, but three times he touched my hair as though he knew me.

Are you okay, I asked him? 

No one knows what he understands or not. No one knows what he sees, hears, or recognizes. But he smiled. And he ran his arm through my hair again.

I stood slowly, needing time to blink the hot tears away.

Thank you, sister, I said. I’ll come again. She smiled and hurried off to care foranother child.

The air hardly moved as I walked silently, alone, through the long, dark corridor.

I stepped into the sunshine and I had no answers.

So my mind and heart had little peace this day… but sometimes we must press on knowing that we do what we do for our God. We do what we do to the best of our ability and trust that HIS hand guides us and leads us in every decision and in every  action. 

God is still God even when we don’t have the answers.

, , ,

In Memory of Elmer

If you remember my story of Elmer, the young man who came to us dying of Tuberculosis, this is my final tribute to him.

Death brings many questions and few answers. I remember holding his face in my hands in almost desperation. Jesus loves you, I said. Elmer, just call to him. Tell him to take you, to forgive you, to bring him to you. Elmer, (I would try to make his eyes stay open), Jesus is waiting for you. He will hold you.

The chance of giving someone hope in their last hours, the chance that a lost soul will find peace after a life of pain, is why I would take another dying one again.

Elmer flew to Jesus March 20, 2006.

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall…so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

  Chris Rice

, , , , ,

He Has A Name

On Saturday, after 24 hours, I was sure, Elmer, his family called him “Boy”, would die. He was hardly conscious. He wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink. I was sure his lungs were full of fluid. After every coughing fit, I would hold my breath to see if he kept on breathing. Read more

, , , ,

A Dying Man

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. Read more

, , , ,

Henry

We thought it was a rescue…

The grandmother begging me to help get her sick grandson out of the hospital where no one was paying any attention to him.

He had been there for 2 weeks… and got worse every day.

Now, she didn’t know where to turn. The doctors wouldn’t tell them anything… they had no money f Read more