It is not always in this life that we will see blessings or the fruit of our labours.
A few months before Ashish died, he came with his uncle and planted a tree outside the Jeevan Sahara Kendra centre. That tree still flourishes with life. When I see that tree it still fills my heart with hope.
Ashish first came to our centre as a 12 year old son of a dead father, and a mother who had deserted him. He had been taken in by his aunt, who loved him, and his uncle, who was afraid of him. He slept on the floor, and did not share plates or towels with the rest of the family. His uncle often drank, and would sometimes beat him and his aunt. All of these things were consequences of HIV/AIDS.
After much input, the Uncle began to love his nephew, stopped drinking, and became much more responsive to our staff, and even donated a little money.
Ashish was doing very well. He had such a lovely smile, and was achieving good grades at school. Then he fell very sick with a cancer, un-related to his HIV, and within a few months he died.
Five days before he died I visited him lying on his dirt floor. He had slowly become unrecognizable. His cheek-bones protruded incongruously far from his sunken cheeks. Between his ribs the skin shrank away. his visage was that of a skeleton with skin and eyes.
I have never before or since seen someone in a more pathetic state.
That day I shared a story with him of a loving God who took the form of a man, came down to earth, and lived amongst us before giving his life for humanity. I told him how this man Jesus Christ had once welcomed little children, and how after he died, he rose from the grave, and went to heaven to prepare a place for those who love him. I shared how Jesus still welcomes little children, and I told Ashish that after he died I believed he would be going to a place where there is no injustice, no sickness, no poverty, and no HIV.
After sharing this story, and making Ashish as comfortable as I could, I asked him if he had anything he wanted me to share with the rest of the team at our centre. “Praise the Lord” he said.
I tried not to cry. Ashish will receive so much more in heaven that I can comprehend. The truth is that he will also be there with his once-again-smiling face to greet me when I too die. This will be my reward, and it is enough.
Dr. Adam Black served with JSK as a volunteer from 2005-2008