Gift of the Lord - September 2007

Siphosenkosi was his name.

This means "gift of the Lord" in the Zulu language and we all called him simply "Sipho" for short. One and a half year old Sipho came to us on 2 October 2003. The social worker at the hospital in Stanger was looking for a place for an orphan who was suffering from tuberculosis and was HIV positive and of course we did not say no. The mother was unknown and the father did not care for his son. Later we learned that he had also died of AIDS in the meantime. It took us a long time to treat his tuberculosis and at first he had terrible skin rashes. But he recovered through the treatment of his opportunistic infections, good nutrition and a lot of love we were able to give him. He became visibly stronger and was soon discharged from the hospice and then lived in the children's home under the same roof.


He developed quite well, growing up like any other child, only he was always quite reserved and a bit shy.


In January 2007, Sipho was ready to go to kindergarten. This gave him great joy.

Angelika Müller reports:

11.7.2007: It is a normal working day for me. I start my shift at 6.45 with the nursing conference. Then I go to the children's room to see how "my" children are doing because I had 2 days off. Sipho is there.

Sipho is a 5 year old boy today. He is not doing so well, so he is here in the hospice for a few days to recover and regain his strength.

I go to his bed and say hello to him. He seems happy because he knows me because he has been to the hospice several times and I also worked at the children's home. So we are not strangers to each other.

Then I start my daily morning care. I am lucky that my children's room has a bathroom with a bathtub and not a shower. So all the children can have a bath first. That always takes time, because the little ghosts love to bathe and play in the bath. And they should and are allowed to do that. Afterwards they have breakfast and Sipho eats a little too.

In the meantime, Father Gerhard is trying to arrange everything so that Sipho can be put on ARVs and that his life will improve as a result. But for legal reasons this is not so easy.

The next few weeks are a constant up and down. Sometimes he feels a bit better, then he eats and drinks and we can play a bit or he paints a bit. Other days he is very bad again and has difficulties taking his medication, doesn't want to eat or drink anything. But when his condition does not improve any more, our doctor decides to admit him to hospital. 

Nurse Sheilagh and I go with him to Stanger to the hospital. As usual, it is very crowded there and as the doctors are just having breakfast, we have to wait. Finally a very nice doctor comes and we tell her everything. She looks at Sipho, takes blood and again we have to wait, this time for the results. Then finally the result is in and another doctor looks at Sipho. We are told that they are keeping Sipho for the time being and that the outlook for him is not very good. He gets an IV and is transferred to the children's ward. We drive back to the care centre. 

Every evening Susanne Stauffer and Father Gerhard go to the hospital to visit Sipho and see how he is doing. Unfortunately, his condition is constantly deteriorating and it does not look good. He always has three wishes: he asks for sweets and water and wants to be put on his lap and we were very happy to fulfil these last wishes.

Father Gerhard, with the help of the Mandeni social worker Helma Lintvelt, cleared all the hurdles, was appointed legal guardian by the guardianship court and can therefore take Sipho into the ARV programme, because of course this is not possible without the consent of the legal guardian. Unfortunately, however, it was too late for him. Only two days after he started the antiretroviral treatment, he died on 3 September 2007.

Our last pictures of Sipho on 1.9.2007, two days before his death.

A lot of people die in our hospice, including children, but Sipho was the first child from our children's home to pass away. Of course, we also held the funeral on 7 September 2007 in the family setting of the children's home. All the children and the caretakers were there when Father Gerhard held the requiem in Blessed Gérard's Church.

After the homily, all the children were invited to write down a last greeting for Sipho. They were allowed to place the notes in front of Sipho's picture next to the coffin. Susanne Stauffer lit a candle on the Easter candle each time a child laid a note and placed it around a red heart next to the coffin as a sign of the love that unites us with Sipho and the Lord God. The eternal light shine on him!

Afterwards, everyone drove together in several vehicles to the cemetery of Inkamana Abbey, where Father Gerhard laid him to rest.