The Kibuye Community lost a friend and colleague two weeks ago. Sylvestre was easy to recognize at the hospital. He worked in the finance department, and he moved in a wheelchair. He was generally quiet, but could surprise you with good French, and flip into Swahili and even English if needed. All this showed that he was a man with quite a story to tell, though he wasn't one to bring it up quickly.
When we first moved to Kibuye, Sylvestre was actually living in a room across from his cashier's office. He moved out in 2013, when he got married. He and his wife Violette then had two little girls.
About a month ago, he was brought into our Emergency Room with persistent fevers. What followed was a month of trying to offer him the best we could. As it turns out, rural Africa is a hard place to be paralyzed, for reasons that extend beyond the lack of smooth roads for your wheelchair. We eventually found the source of his extensive infection. It took a while because of his lack of sensation, and by the time we did, the infection had gotten a crucial head-start. Despite lots of surgical and medical interventions, he slowly deteriorated, and finally passed away at the age of 43.
At his funeral, his brother-in-law gave a short history of his life, which I had some friends translate for me:
Sylvestre was a local kid, from another rural area that abuts Kibuye. After finishing secondary school, he was attacked with machetes in the crisis of 1993 and left for dead. Somehow he was brought to Kibuye Hospital, which was staffed at the time by a woman surgeon who cared for him and finally arranged for him to go to Kenya for more care. While he was there, he continued his studies at a university level (and thus the Swahili and English). They even said that he studied in the US for three years afterwards, (though we haven't been able to confirm that). He came back and started working at the hospital in 2009, and was married in 2013.
Here are a few pictures of Sylvestre:
|Sylvestre with his older daughter, from his FB profile picture|
|Another awesome FB shot with the humorous caption: "My souvenir from when I was in Scandinavia. It was last week." Was he ever in Scandinavia? Certainly not the week prior, but maybe that's a reference to the photo?|
|The pallbearers taking his coffin to the grave.|
It's hard to watch a friend slip away, even harder when you are part of the team taking care of him. Hard when you know that another medical system could have saved his life. Now he is gone, and his widow and their daughters will go on. His life, for all its tragedies, had much to celebrate.
And the story is not done. Resurrection is our end. He is now more whole than any of us. We will see him again, and when we do, not only will his body be whole, but all of our linguistic and cultural barriers will be dissolved, and we will be able to know one another, even as we are now known by our Father who holds us always in his hands.