For John

I met John several years ago while making a home visit in the rural area of Kenya. It is John who inspired the dream of opening a palliative care center/hospice house. A dream that is getting closer to becoming a reality.

For John

I still remember his face

smooth as butter, rich and dark as melted chocolate, swirled with a touch of caramel

I still remember his smile

easy, despite an occasional pain-induced grimace

teeth lined up like pearl buttons gleaming against the coffee dark skin

I still remember his tall muscular frame

from years of being a soccer coach

a frame morphing into lankiness, but still too big and too long

for the wood framed couch to hold

I still remember the concrete floor

upon which the couch and the man lay

the tininess and tidiness of it all

oversized chairs flank the couch and coffee table

an outdated calendar and a photo of the Kenya president are adhered to the concrete walls

I still remember the pale yellow card from the clinic

holding the fate of this strapping man

“(L) BRST CA”…  

(Left breast cancer)

I still remember the dread

that shot through my body when I lifted his black Adidas T-shirt

and gently removed the sticky white cotton, cross-ribbed gauze

from his left breast

I still remember the smell

(and it embarrassed him as if the offensive odor was his fault).

I still remember bathing the wound

no, I remember bathing the massof wounds and bulging tumor

ever so slightly with filtered water

applying a fresh clean bandage

I still remember his words

“sister, I am dying”

and the gentle nod of my head as he clenched my hand

closing his eyes as I offered prayers with him

I remember the righteous anger that rose in me

for the lack

lack of resources

lack of treatments

lack of something as simple and necessary as pain meds

I still remember my boldness at the pharmacy

writing a prescription for pain meds on a piece of scrap paper

signing my name with my R.N after it

awarding me a power I didn’t know I held

I still remember the fear of being

Handcuffed and put in jail

despite assurances that I was free to write such things in Kenya

I remember and cling to his words on my final visit

“safe journey home sister”

“I will pray for you”

I still remember the email a few months later

“John has died”

and the sorrow that settled in my breast like a sharp, shooting dagger

Love and Always Mercy,


To donate:

Make checks out to Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Earmark them for Kenya

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

4701 Grove St.

Rocklin, CA 95677

via Always Mercy

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