God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

So much to do and so little time…

Sitting on my working desk and  trying to plan the next months I receive the news that my uncle in Germany died. Well, he was old, but it still triggered besides all the normal reflection one has once again the acknowledgement that life has an end and that one has to use it wisely. I don’t think that it is important how much one has done, the much more important question is whether one has lived intensively whatever one has done in life and if one has been the person meant to be. So for me it is also not a question of age.. one can become 100 and waste most of his or her time. I have seen people having achieved with 40 more than others with 80.
I think such a reflection is also meaningful when one deals with HIV and AIDS. Right, in many countries they are talking about a chronic disease and also we starting in South Africa to do so. Nevertheless every day are dying hundreds of people, mostly young people still as a consequence of HIV and AIDS. And looking to Africa, there are more reasons for dying young on this continent. So, once again: every second of life is counting, nobody knows whether he or she will wake up tomorrow morning, whether he or she will see the end of this day. The past is gone for good, the future is not known, the only time we can live and determine is the second of the moment. I know, a well-known fact. But we need to be reminded again and again, because it is so easy to forget in all the hectic of life. And even if there is so much to do and so little time..let’s not worry, we can only do what can fit in that very precious moment we just living now…

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Epistle 2010-25…

…. and it reads: “Father Roland P.  died this afternoon at 3h45 at the Durbanville Medi-Clinic. His requiem Mass will be celebrated at….”

Pictures surface in my mind: the small talk with him during the opening of the Bavarian House during the soccer world cup. His smile which made you think twice whether he was serious or joking, a brilliant mind.. and.. and .. and.

A life is gone, a life came to an end and sitting in the evening in a restaurant with a friend having dinner, the question arose: Is that all what is left from him? Memories? Memories in those who have known him and which will definitely fade away in the then following generation…
A life is gone, a whole world is gone, because Roland was, like everybody else, unique: The way he experienced things will be gone for ever, and with it, everything he experienced: the first rain, the first steps, the first love, the way he worked as a priest and so much more. Gone for ever or taken up into heaven? What kind of heaven? Heaven with eternal praise or eternal love? Should not a priest know this best?

Not sure, but sure I feel somehow somber in this moment and my thoughts are with his family and with himself. It is like his death is touching my life for a while, slowing it down, commemorating it, and also questioning everything what I am doing and how I am living.

Yes, what is the meaning of life? Where do we come from, where do we go to? Philosophical question and very theoretical normally they are suddenly so vivid and alive. But is it really important to know where we will go when we die?  Not even sure about this – but what I know very much so: That I have to live my life as long as I can, that I have only one chance in life to live it to the fullest. And surely: That I don’t know when I will be called to higher services, it has an urgency to live, and to live it as complete and fulfilling as one can. And that means also to accept all grey shadows of life.
I said Mass this evening in Belhar for him and I am grateful for all the  moments, we shared when our ways crossed in the last years.  RIP we Christian say, but I would love to change it: Live in peace where ever you are now and thanks for being a reminder even in your death, how valuable my own lifetime is. I knew it, I know it, but still I need a reminder from time to time.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , ,

29.03.2010 Holy Week

For us Christian began the Holy Week, ending with Easter Sunday. But instead of having time of meditating the mysteries of the week, the time is packed with meetings, appointments and also liturgy. But the day started on a very sad note: Rainer H. from Switzerland died suddenly and unexpected, just returned home last week from Cape Town in his home country Switzerland. It is always a shock to learn about such news – he was a very special man. And my thoughts and prayers are with Sue and all the family.

And with such a death, the message of Easter becomes very actual as we believe that death is not the end but only a passing over to a new stage in life. Do we really believe it? And if we do so, what does that mean for our life here on earth?

For once I am sure: Rainer and Sues activities towards HOPE Cape Town meant hope and future for a lot of people – and I can pray that he will be rewarded for all he has done for our patients, but also for the sick participating in the pilgrimage to Lourdes over the years. R.I.P or better: Live in the joy of God.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, Uncategorized, , ,

17.10.2009 Silent into the grave

No, no, it’s fine. Everything’s okay. Whenever we ask Maggie how she is doing, she always gives the same answer. But we can see that she is getting thinner and weaker by the day. It’s obvious that she struggles to clean the rooms in our guesthouse, she visibly strains just shaking pillows or emptying the bins. And yet she insists: Don’t worry about me. Maggie has worked at the Mediterranean Villa for two years. She is 48 years old. Her husband died in 2004, and since then she has had to find her own way with three children. The two older daughters don’t work, the youngest smokes Tik – crystal methamphetamines – which is all the rage in Cape Town’s drug scene. It’s disastrous for the whole family. While the mother works, the daughter sells all the household’s possessions to buy more drugs. But the money is never enough to gratify her addiction. Maggie’s daughter enters a vicious cycle of crime: she steals, she is arrested, mother bails her out, she does not reform, is arrested again, etc. And Maggie works and earns the money needed to bail her out.
But soon Maggie won’t be able to do that any more, because there is a disorder about which she doesn’t want to talk. She also doesn’t want to see a doctor. All our efforts at persuading her are futile. She makes excuses: “Let it be, it’s fine, I have no time for doctors, it’s just the stress.” Both of us know that it isn’t stress, but the stigma. It’s the dread of being marked out and ostracised if her neighbours in the township should know what ails her. That disease: HIV/Aids. It’s always others who get infected – neighbours, strangers, outsiders. The stigma is remorseless. It draws on ignorance, rumours, credulity and moral failure. It leads to the exclusion of the affected. “Don’t touch me”. “Use another toilet.” One hears such phrases every day. And sometimes: “You’re not one of us any more.”
It’s like a social death penalty – and that happens in a culture which proclaims the principle of ubuntu. A keyword in Africa’s mutually supportive societies, it can be defined as one being human only through other people. Aids. Maggie won’t even say the word. Her husband’s death certificate also doesn’t say what exactly caused his death. He just was very ill. Nobody needs to know more. And that’s why so many people refuse to go to a doctor. “No problem; it’s not that bad.” Always the same excuses, the same pleading, the same silent complaints, and sometimes also tears – and it goes on like this for weeks. Finally, in November 2006, I prevail and take Maggie to the doctor for a blood test. She refuses to accept the result. No, she doesn’t have this sickness; she isn’t ill. The doctor puts her off work for six months. She gets weaker and weaker, her body is falling apart; it’s too late for the medications which could extend her life. Soon, on a sunny January morning, she dies. The fear of stigmatisation killed Maggie – a fate shared by many thousands of her fellow HIV-positive South Africans.

from the book: Gott,AIDS, Afrika – Kiepenheuer & Witch Verlag 2007

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Society and living environment, , , , , ,

10.09.2009 a first farewell and the living and the death…

In one hour the dinner for “my” pastoral community council starts and I must admit that it was a thrilling experience to work with all the members together. Great people and willing to go the extra mile to accomodate the needs of the Catholic community. But having them for dinner means also to remember all the members already called to higher services. We are, as Christians, the community of the living and the death; we believe that those gone before us only are a couple of steps in front of us, still approachable, still present, still connected, still very much alive. A great thought – and together with the “unconditional love of God to all and everybody” one of the highlights of Christian teaching. Comforting without taking away the sadness and grief when loosing a loved one, but keeping up some hope and a trust in the future of us all.
So I do solute already those who have to party apart from this world with us this eve – they are present – in our hearts and I am sure also more than that.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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