01 November 2010

Dinner at Delis

I have talked a lot about the inconsistency in emotions that I experience at the AIDS center. The sadness that fills my heart when a new patient is admitted and is in the deepest stages of illness is something I still have not learned to completely deal with. The struggle to understand death consumes me every time a patient passes away and those feelings are magnified when that patient is a child. But the joy that I find through working with my patients is unparalleled. Each and every time I help a patient pack up whatever small tokens of home they have brought to the Centre with them and give them a hug as they are discharged home my job seems worth all the sadness and tears.

Delisile was admitted to the Respite Centre just after I arrived in South Africa. From the first moment I met her I recognized that her heart not only filled her tiny body, but exploded from it; consuming all who came into contact with her. She has a magnetism that draws everyone to her. The first time I saw Deli, a 32 year old woman whose illness stole her capacity to function, pulled her away from her family and job and ripped weight off her body I thought she was a frail 13 year old. Since those early January days, I have seen a miraculous transformation.

Deli moved from depending on everyone for all of life’s basic necessities (feeding, bathing, transportation) into someone whose brilliant story was featured in Oprah’s magazine. She can eat food without falling ill and has thus regained weight and her mobility. She has been discharged from eight months in the confines of a metal hospital bed to the loving arms of her daughters and family. She has become a survivor and my best friend here.

For selfish reasons there is a teeny tiny part of me that misses seeing her vibrant smile and receiving her warm hug every morning, but knowing that she is at home, functioning as a healthy woman and mother overrides the absence of her in my daily life.

Three weeks ago Mary-Kate and I were invited to her house to spend the day with her and her family. As we got out of our car and approached her home we were greeted with open arms and love by her entire extended family, neighbours and friends. Inside we were presented with a plate overflowing with chicken, rice, sweet potatoes, salad and potato salad-a beautiful token of their appreciation. Although the food was beyond outstanding I couldn’t help feeling slightly self-conscious as we sat eating while everyone else empty handed watched us. Part of living here is recognizing that others give from what they have – Deli’s family had food and prepared a feast for us because they could. I struggle with accepting a meal knowing that I have ready access to an abundance of food and her family’s food consumption is limited. A complex feeling that will always leave me unsettled.

The day was nothing short of beautiful. People from all over kept coming to her house to greet us, thanking us for helping her to get well which is a true testament to the strong woman and integral part of the community that Deli is. Her daughters and other various young children preformed dance after dance for us and even sang the whole Shania Twain CD. I couldn’t help but choke back tears as her two beautiful daughters appeared from around the corner in dresses my Nana had made and sent over here with my family. Although they are beautiful and I would have loved to keep them for myself I gave them to Deli when she was discharged to bring home as a gift for her daughters. I realized that my already overflowing closet was not where the dresses would be the most appreciated and seeing the girls sashaying through the house, big smiles on their face reaffirmed that decision. They send many thanks to you Nana!

The day concluded with many pictures of everyone all together, big huge hugs and a promise to see each other again. With my days in South Africa coming to an end saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest things, but knowing that she is healthy, happy and at home where she belongs puts a smile on my face.

Friends come from an assortment of places, with their ages- races- and significance in our lives varying. Deli has taught me that love between friends, true inner strength and determination have no regulated maximum, but rather are the most infectious ailment one could be lucky enough to confront
Deli now!!!

Deli a few months ago


  1. Not only do you give your time, talents and love, you also share your closet!
    The girls look so pleased with Shirley's creations.
    A beautiful story, thanks for sharing your love with us!

  2. Aunt Chris (Phx, AZ)November 11, 2010 at 1:06 AM

    Meghan it sounds like God is using you to touch the lives of these people who struggle day in and day out with death, illness, poverty, loss, and so much more that we in our comfy world just have no comprehension of. And yet it also appears as though they are teaching you about finding His joy and His peace and His blessings in all circumstances.
    I've seen such growth and change in you over this past year. When I read these verses (well this chapter) from the bible in book of Romans I see, what I believe, is God working in your heart. Be open to all that He desires to do in you.

    A Living Sacrifice
    Romans 12:1-21

    1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    Humble Service in the Body of Christ

    3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

    Love in Action

    9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

    17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    John 3:15-17 (Today's New International Version)

    16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?

    Thanks for being willing to be used by God in such a special way! What an amazing journey you've been on. I hope we can get together after you come home so you can share more of your experience with us. All my love - Aunt Chris