Thursday, 12 February 2015

Martha's Matthew

A few times over the last few years I've had cause to say 'this is the worst thing I've ever seen' or 'this is the worst thing I've ever experienced'.......and yet, each time there always seems to be something worse. This is one of my worst experiences:
This happened a while back, but it's not until now that I've felt able to share it, but I feel that people need to know about the sadness and waste of life in situations like this........
Martha was my security and housekeeper when at the previous compound I lived at. She's a hard working lady, her husband had drowned and she was bringing up her son with her mother's help.
She worked everyday apart from Sundays when she went to Church. Matthew was around 8 or 9 years old. He was doing well in school, his last school report showed that he was top of his class.
Matthew had been feeling poorly for a couple of days and he had a fever so Martha kept him off school and bought him to work with her. He felt hot to touch, but seemed quite perky so I said we'd see how he was the next day and if he was no better I'd send him to the hospital. He spent the day snoozing on my veranda.
The next morning I was woken by shouting, I went out in my pyjamas to see what was going on and Martha was there crying and Matthew was lying on the floor on a mat. Martha had carried Matthew from her home to mine, around 4 miles.........he had got worse during the night, but she waited until morning because she didn't want to disturb me.
Matthew was hot, very very hot, I checked for a pulse but there wasn't one. When I did my first aid course I was told that if I were ever in a situation when CPR was needed it would kick in automatically, but it didn' didn't even dawn on my until later that I should have tried CPR.
Sullay, our driver, and I locked eyes across Matthews body and somehow came to a silent agreement that we would take Matthew to the children's hospital - even though we were both pretty sure that he was dead.
We quickly got Matthew and Martha into the Landrover and they set off for the Children's Hospital a couple of miles away. Within half an hour they were back, with Matthew and the confirmation that he had died, presumably from malaria and typhoid.
What do you say to a mother whose child has just died so unnecessarily?
What do you do with the small dead body of a little boy?
How do you deal with the guilt that if you'd sent him to the hospital the day before there's a good chance that he'd be alive and kicking rather than lying dead in the back of my car?
The practical things were easily sorted - we sent Martha with Matthew's body home and arranged his burial and later a memorial service.
The emotional things take a lot longer.
Martha didn't want to go back to live with her mother where she had been living with Matthew - she couldn't face sleeping alone in the room they used to share together so she came to live in my compound.
Whenever Martha would get upset I would hear the other security telling her to stop crying because it would upset me! They allowed her to cry the day Matthew died, but after that expected her to just get on with things.
As for me, I doubt I will ever fully forgive myself for not taking Matthew to hospital that first day - would it have made any difference? I will never know now, and we will never know the young man he would have grown into.
I now keep a stock of malaria tests, so I can quickly know if someone with a fever has malaria and get them treatment quickly. When a child is sick I no longer say we'll wait and see how they are the next day.
There are so many 'what ifs' with this story.........

Matthew at his last sports day


1 comment:

  1. Oh, Alison.... how well I understand how helpless you felt, how responsible you still feel, how one longs to turn back time and change circumstances as our brains pound into us we could have... And then out of these tragic losses, the ones most closely connected are shamed into no external grieving... how many times does one hear... Jesus loved them better... ?
    There is no level where the loss doesn't feel wrong to our mortality, to have it touch close to our hearts like this has yours is to change our complacent expectations of what life guarantees us... to move us to empathy, to challenge us to continue to care to make the difference we can... to deepen our love& compassion& commitment to those God has given us to walk beside...
    I have been there... I understand... I am so gladi you shared this so we can all carry a little part of your grief alongside you! You'll never forget your young Matthew: know that is a bond with Martha that is blessing her in a way you uniquely can...
    Believing there is a top side to the tapestry of Life that belies the mess of the snarls and dark places in the pattern we see from underneath... that nothing is random in it's outcome& impact, gives me faith in a Father God that truly has shared in our griefs, understands our pain& has the capacity to turn the explicable brokenness of the world we inhabit into something that works together for each of our good if we live Love...