Remembering Menzi - Christmas 2005

In memory of Menzi

by Sr. Sheilagh Schröder

It was literally an answer to prayer that I came to work for Blessed Gérard's Care Centre. I had been working part-time in nursing in England and really enjoyed the work and the travel involved, but then there came a time when my focus changed and I had a great desire to return to South Africa permanently, but in the area where I live it is difficult to find employment in nursing. When I was home for a month last August, one of the staff, Sr. Elizabeth Coetzer contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with her there. I couldn't believe it and answered with an enthusiastic yes without any hesitation.

Now it has been almost a year since I started there and I would like to tell you about a little boy who has grown close to my heart. The administration was approached by a social worker from the Eshowe area about a little malnourished boy who kept going to hospital. Like so many others, he was HIV positive and had a skin disease caused by AIDS. Before Christmas 2004, he was admitted to Blessed Gérard's Hospice as an inpatient. His skin disease was manifested by the fact that whole layers of skin were constantly peeling off, at times breaking open and bleeding. This made him very sensitive and there was nothing he appreciated more than being hugged and stroked. One day when I was off duty, he was crying and when asked what he wanted, he said he wanted the "Gogo" (Zulu for grandmother). No one knew who he meant. So they asked him, "Which gogo?" He said "the white grandma" and meant me, the only white grey-haired staff member. I was very touched by that. From then on, he grew very close to my heart. All the children we take care of become dear to us and thank God they have found a place where they get lots of love and security. When they die, like Menzi did in July, it is very sad and we grieve like parents for these little guys. I don't have a grandson of my own. So after Menzi passed away, I wrapped this little body in a scarf my mother had made for my children. There are so many AIDS orphans in our area and the money donated to keep our centre running goes a long way in enabling many children like Menzi to end their days on earth in a loving and peaceful atmosphere.