Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Originally uploaded by Elizabeth in Bolivia.
Her bed was already neatly made when I arrived at Missionaries of Charity, but Coco, her well-loved teddy bear which rarely left its perch on her pillow, was missing.

Usually, I find her seated quietly on her bed and I greet her with a kiss on the cheek and a squeeze of her hands. She is seated because her limbs have long-since failed her. She is quiet because she is patient. Her arms are limp, her legs tiny and immobile. If she could stand, she might reach my ribcage. She gently calls the name of one of the other women to pick her up and put her in her wheelchair. When she isn´t immediately attended to, she gently calls again, and again - always soft, always gentle. She can´t eat until someone places her in her chair, wheels her to the dining room, and then spoon-feeds her. Her sheets are usually soaked and stained since she can´t control her bladder during the night.

I once got to lift her in her chair, surprised that her tiny frame was so difficult for me to maneuver. I remember whispering a prayer that I wouldn´t drop her. She would get wheeled in for breakfast while I gave her fresh sheets and placed Coco back on her pillow.

Lunch, which was often my most dreaded time at M of C, became one of my favorite. I happened to walk by her one day, and she requested that I be the one to feed her. I was honored! I pulled up a chair next to her and ¨cut¨ her food with a spoon so it was more manageable for her small mouth. She would motion with her eyes when she was ready for another bite. She ate so neatly and gracefully, rarely allowing food to escape and spill down the front of her sweater. She let me know when she couldn´t eat anymore and always thanked me for feeding her.

She was elderly, physically disabled, and very ´with it.´ Her sharp mind trapped in an earthly body. She spoke to me in Spanish about how much she loved her ¨gringitas¨ (little white girls) and remembered the two girls from the previous servant team. She always acknowledged me when I passed by her, and she smiled with her eyes.

As I looked at her neatly-made bed, I learned that she passed away last Tuesday, the day I returned from Peru. My eyes watered in disbelief and my breath quickened. I am sad for the loss of my friend, yet I imagine her in a new body, cautiously testing out her perfect arms and legs, walking, eating...rejoicing.


alicia bunch said...

Hi el,
this is alicia, one of the servant team members last year. I came across your blog. I remember the woman you are talking about. I think her name was Sunovia. Her best friend was Orpa. Yes, I hope she is testing out her PERFECT arms and legs. She was a sweet woman. I have beautiful memories of her. M. of C. is a hard place, but so beautiful. Press on these next few weeks. I know its hard to be in such a broken place.

alicia said...

hey el,
This is alicia. I talked to you before you left. I was on the last servant team. I think I remember the woman you are talking about. Is it Sunovia? Orpa was her side-kick/best friend? I know she must be dancing joyfully these days in a perfect place.
Those woman are precious. They taught me so much and I was broken in so many ways there. blessings as you continue to serve and be broken.

alicia said...

sorry I thought one of them had been erased....so you got two messages!

Elizabeth said...

Yes... Sunovia is her name. Her side-kick friend isn´t there anymore; I haven´t met her. I´m glad you remember her!!
Thanks for your encouraging words to press on...only 3 weeks left!