Ever since I joined Buddies in 2004, I’ve had to face quite a number of deaths of my clients. Thank God I’m not really the type who gets emotionally involved in my cases, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get affected at all. I mean, who wouldn’t get touched seeing children still needing love and attention losing their parents, right?
The first of the deaths of my clients that I had to face was that of Rose. Rose had been a client of Buddies for quite some time, but after a while she went missing. By the time my fellow volunteers managed to get hold of her again, I was already a confirmed buddy, and so they assigned me to this case. By then Rose had been diagnosed with late stage of cancer. I only got to know Rose for the last 2 1/2 months of her life, but during that short period she did tell me from A to Z about her life story.
Anyway, when Rose died, her 3 children were all still in primary school. The oldest then was only 12, and the youngest 9. None of Rose’s siblings were well-to-do, and none were willing to take in additional financial burden. But luckily, the children’s paternal family came to the rescue. After visiting the children’s paternal grandma and aunt who took them in, I was convinced they were in good hands and the new guardians were also financially capable to bring them up. So I didn’t really have to monitor their case anymore, although from time to time, I do get news from their aunt. The kids are doing well.
Then there was Lily, who had to lead such a complicated life. Nobody had expected her to go so soon. Despite her HIV, her condition wasn’t too bad. But she died due to complications arising from dengue. Her 3 children were all still young, including her youngest son who was just 5 years old then, and was also HIV+ to add. An uncle willingly took over responsibility taking care of the children, but although I tried to convince them that they didn’t have to worry about taking care of a HIV+ child, after listening to too many other people who insisted they knew what they’re talking about, the child was sent to a shelter home for HIV children, separated from his sisters who continued to stay with the uncle. The uncle however, did promise to visit the boy from time to time.
I have lost contact with this family, and so I don’t know how they’re doing right now.
The next death was that of Azman’s, Yah’s husband. They had 4 children, including the youngest who was still a baby then. Yah had problems with her in-laws then, and had to resort to “running away” together with her kids from their house near her in-law’s house. She moved back to her parent’s house. I did continue to visit them after the husband’s death, but Yah, who initially was a very strong and determined woman, changed for the worse after she began befriending another PLHIV, Mr Darling. She starting going out (and sleeping with) men, determined to take revenge on them. Her 2 older children ended up asking to go to an orphanage. The 2 younger ones continued to stay with their grandparents. I withdrew Yah’s financial assistance as I didn’t want her to spend the money for useless things. Lately however, Yah has changed (or at least she admitted so) and now she is already working at a factory and her kids are back with her. We do keep still keep in touch from time to time and the children seem to be doing okay.
Another death I had to face was that of Rina’s. When Rina’s case was referred to us, her condition was already very bad. So I never really had the chance to get to know Rina better. I only had the opportunity to visit her at her house once, to help bring her to the hospital, and another visit was when she was warded at the hospital. The next visit was at the morgue, the day she died. Rina left behind a son, who was then just 8 years old, but his grandparents were able and willing to take care of him, and so I didn’t really have to follow up on the case after Rina’s death.
Then last year came Shila’s death. That was the first time I had to handle the janazah right from preparing the kafan, to bathing and finally to kafan the body. Shila died at home, not at the hospital, and after I found out that the regular lady who usually handles all the janazah management at that kampong was not around, I offered myself since I knew what to do and had the experience (although that was my first time handling the body of an HIV+ person). Shila left behind one daughter, Laila, who was then 11. But Shila had all the while stayed at her mother’s house, together with her mother and a few other siblings, so there wasn’t really any problem about who was to take care of Laila. But since the family wasn’t well to do, Laila, who was already under our education sponsorship programme, still continues to get sponsorship for her educational needs. But I don’t really have to follow up on this case too often.
The latest case is of course that of Sofie’s. This case is somehow different from the other cases I’ve had to handle. Probably because I visit this family more often compared to the other families, not because I practice favouritism, but because of Sofie’s fragile condition. The first time I was assigned to her, she was actually bedridden. That was 4 years ago. Nobody thought she could survive any more than a year. But for the sake of her children, she persevered for 4 years. Sofie herself, despite her condition, was never the type to just do nothing and wait for assistance to come in. The moment she felt a bit better, she’d try to do something to earn some income for the family. By late last year she started selling nasi lemak near her rented house, after getting some assistance from the government’s e-kasih programme.
There were times however, when she felt unwell and couldn’t open her stall. In other words, the family was still not stable and independent enough. I still visit the family regularly every month. The children were already treating me like family. Unlike other children who’d only go out with me if their mother came along, in the case of Sofie’s children, they didn’t even have to think twice about going anywhere with me without their mother tagging along.
Although the children are now under the care of their aunt Rozi, Rozi too treats me like family and had been endlessly thanking me for helping out her sister. The children now still needs care and help. Unlike the other children under their new guardians whom I only follow up from time to time just to find out how they’re doing (a few I have lost contact totally as their new guardians prefer not to keep in touch with us), looks like for Sofie’s children, I will still have to continue with my monthly visits.