Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Remembering Luke



Luke came to us when he was approx. 9 months old.  He had full blown AIDS and weighed only 3.2kg.   His prognosis was very poor and he was not expected to live longer than a week or so.  Luke was with us for 9 months and Amore took over his complete care.  He needed someone 24/7 and Amore did that for him.   When he died, we were all terribly sad, even though we had been expecting it - one always lives with the hope that things will turn out differently.   Even though he was a very sick little boy, he had quite a personality with a very strong will.   He knew what he wanted when he wanted it.   He never did learn to crawl or walk - although he did learn to sit on his own, hold his own bottle and eat biscuits on his own.  Luke took a long time to die - he struggled to breath for over 18 hours.   His little heart was beating rapidly and hard and he struggled to take a breath.  His eyes were looking up and to his right all the time, as though he was watching someone or something.   When we called his name, he would turn his eyes back to us, so he knew we were there with him.  It was heartrending to watch.  And then he just stopped breathing.   Just like that - he just stopped.  We could not believe it - after all those hours of holding him and trying to breathe for him. 
Burying Luke was another trauma.   A burial order had to be obtained from the police who would not release the order without a funeral parlor being involved and the least expensive funeral parlor was over R1800,00 for the funeral.   We wanted to bury Luke ourselves, without all the paraphernalia that goes with funerals.   It was a fight to get the burial order (eventually got someone just to sign it so we could go ahead with the funeral).   Then, the death certificate had to be obtained from the next town, Cradock, which is 100 km away.  Armed with the burial order, we went to the municipality to buy a plot at the cemetery.   I was asked what color the baby was because a black baby could not be buried in a "white" cemetery.   That too was another fight - seems that nothing much has changed in the small times in the 10 years since apartheid was blown out the water.   We made history - Luke was the first black person to be buried in the "white" cemetery.
Then we had to dig the grave, which had been marked out for us.   Because the ground one foot down becomes so hard, we had to use a pick.   But an adult could not fit into the grave with a pick, so the children had to take in turns digging in the grave.  Eventually we were using old jam tins.  And down came the rain - digging under a piece of plastic and then the sun came out.   Jumping in and out the grave, covering it with plastic, rain then sun, and on top of that, people stopping and shouting at us wanting to know what we blacks were doing in the cemetery and whether we had paid for the plot - it was quite an accomplishment to finish digging the grave.   

We bought a little coffin that was obviously a reject, but it only cost us R180,00.   All the children got a turn to paint the coffin and draw or paint pictures on it.   We carried the coffin to the church (walking) and then we walked to the cemetery.   Amore and I still miss Luke. 
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