We mourn yet we Believe

I was on my way to Pilates, driving a car, iced coffee in hand, fully immersed in my American life when I got a message from my social worker in Kenya . . . “Anthony isn’t doing well.  I don’t know if he’ll last through the night.”

Anthony made it through the night.  I was selfishly relieved, secretly hoping I would see him upon my return to Kenya in August.  He was staying at Living Room International, a hospice ministry in the village, whose caregivers inspire me daily.  11 year old Anthony was diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and end stage heart failure a few months ago.

According to the World Heart Federation, RHD affects the world’s poorest, most vulnerable populations.  If left untreated, RHD can lead to heart valve damage, stroke, heart failure, and death.  In endemic countries, prevalence of this preventable disease is a stark measure of health system failure and inequality.  RHD is the most commonly acquired heart disease in young people. It most often begins in childhood as strep throat, and can progress to serious heart damage that kills or debilitates adolescents and young adults.  Although virtually eliminated in Europe and North America, the disease remains common in Africa and other parts of the developing world.*

Last Friday, Anthony asked to leave the hospice and return to the slum, the only place he has ever known as home, to see his family and friends.

Sunday morning, after two days with his family, Anthony died from heart failure.

I only knew Anthony a few months but something about the way God brought him into our lives and how rich and precious our short time with him was, left an imprint on my soul.

Despite the smiles and dancing, Anthony also suffered.  The last day I saw him his feet were so swollen from edema that fluid was leaking through his cracked skin.  You could see his heart beating forcefully and rapidly in his neck.  He often complained about pain and had trouble keeping down any food.

The video below is from Anthony’s niece and mom sending “greetings” while he was away from home last month and staying at the hospice.  Click here . . . 

We mourn with his mother though we can not begin to understand the depth of her loss.  We mourn with his sisters and brothers and nieces.  We mourn with his friends.  We mourn the injustice and the health disparities.

And yet we believe Anthony transitioned into heaven with dignity, knowing he had people, friends and family on earth who loved him dearly.  Please pray for Anthony’s mom and niece who will feel his absence in a deep and personal way.  And pray for our team in Kenya who has an honest desire to fight for the rights of the poor.

With love and gratitude,


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