My husband and I came to the construction site of Kimbilio Care Center in Eldoret today. My office is a chair with my computer on my lap, inside the chapel. I look around and see beautifully, bright colored stained glass windows speaking these words to me: Peace (Amani.), Hope (Tumaini), Faith (Imani), Love (Upendo), and a bright, red colored cross reminding me of why we embarked on this overwhelming, so much more than ourselves, journey: To create a community of compassion that honors life and offers hope.
“My last hope,” are the words 24 year old, Richard, shared with me yesterday when I asked him how he ended up bringing his younger sister, Mercy, to Kimbilio Hospice. “It was a chain of God’s help,” he said. As I listened to Richard share about his journey with Mercy, it was another moment in which God reminded me why Living Room’s Kimbilio Hospice exists.
Mercy (18 years old) unexpectedly passed away in her sleep at Kimbilio the day before. She had been our guest for three months. Born with Down syndrome and misdiagnosed at 5 years of age with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD). Earlier this year, doctors discovered that Mercy had been living with a hole in her heart. She was in congestive cardiac failure and secondary to that, she had multiple organ failure. The doctors were surprised that Mercy had lived this long.
Listening to Richard, one would imagine that he was a wise old man. But he is only 24 years old. And it is nothing short of a miracle along with his hard work and determination that he graduated from University in November 2017. Richard is the 4th born of seven children. Mercy was the 6th born. Richard says his mother was very loving, kind and hard working. Through her job as an elementary school teacher and her side job of rearing 140 goats, she educated her children as their father struggled with alcohol. His loving mother also took great care of Mercy since she was born including faithfully taking her for monthly check-ups for what they thought was RHD. Their lives became very difficult in 2012 when their mother was tragically killed. Her death greatly affected the family. Richard was in his last year of high school at the time. He recalls the last time he saw his mother, “It was academic day at our school and she came to see how I was doing. I had an average grade of C+ and she encouraged me to ‘pull up my socks’ (a common Kenyan phrase that people use to encourage one another). After her death, I was determined to make my mother proud. I got a B+ on the Kenya National exam for high schools, the highest grade in my school; and I received a partial government scholarship to attend University.”
Richard and Mercy come from Baringo County, a remote semi-arid area of Kenya, which is about a six hour journey by road to Kimbilio Hospice. After Richard completed University, Mercy’s health began deteriorating and he decided to bring her to stay with him in his small rental room. He took her to a hospital in Eldoret, where our Patient Care Director, Daniel Morogo, does rounds with their Palliative Care Team once a week. Richard stayed with his sister day and night, caring for her at the hospital. As her health deteriorated further, she could no longer walk.
When the doctors discovered Mercy’s condition was no longer treatable, they counseled Richard – no other family showed up to support him. That is when Richard describes: “I didn’t know what to do. How would I continue taking care of Mercy? I have no job. I was just doing odd jobs to earn some money for our food and rent. I left the hospital that morning and sat on a rock in Eldoret town, from morning until evening. Just thinking. Though I knew God was with us, I felt hopeless. Shortly after that day, I was introduced to Morogo. God sent Morogo and through Morogo, I was able to bring Mercy to Kimbilio. I am so grateful for Kimbilio. Thank you for taking care of my sister. She was so happy here. I have a home in Baringo, but I now have another home. Kimbilio.”
I asked Richard, “What will you remember most about your sister?” His reply was, “Mercy was a survivor, so loving. She didn’t despise anyone. Despite the way people treated her, she loved everyone and would always ask about them.” Then finally I asked him, “If someone was deciding whether or not to take their loved one to Kimbilio, how would you advise him/her?” “God created Kimbilio. Love, Kindness, Joy, Trust, Support and home. The word home describes many things. A living home. Giving inspiration. Giving hope. Please share our story – our story could be someone else’s story.”
Thank you for your support of Living Room that makes this “home” possible.