Paulo, the boy in the red shirt making the funny faces in the group photos, died on Saturday night, some time in his sleep. He wasn't feeling well on Saturday and on Sunday he just didn't wake up. They found him with his hands tucked under his chin, a very peaceful looking position which has comforted us all that he wasn't suffering. He was twelve.
Paulo was such a sweetheart! He came to our center two years ago, leaving his family an hour and a half away so he could be closer to the city (as well as our clinic) for good medical care. He was very sickly when he came but had improved so much, you'd hardly know it! In fact, he was so much improved, he was set to return home to his mother and family in about two weeks time after school is out for summer holidays.
Paulo quickly became one of the boys and his closest buddies were the boys who moved out of my dorm last year, including all of these in the group photos. Naturally, they are missing him, grieving his loss and not sure what to think of it at all.
His funeral was yesterday. I'm sure most of my readers have never been, nor ever will go, to an African funeral. The grief is palpable and very visible. There is no attempt at stoicism, the family usually weeps until physically laying on the ground and Paulo's funeral was no exception. It' heart-wrenching to see. And devastating to watch that little casket lowered into the ground with utter finality. I will certainly miss him and cannot imagine how his family is feeling.
His death has also caused a bit of fear to creep into my heart, for all my boys, but especially those who are HIV+ and whose health is more fragile than appears to the eye. I have seven HIV+ boys in my dorm currently and although you would never know which was which because they look so healthy, I'm reminded that even a cold could be life-threatening when their immune system is so compromised. So although I don't want to be fearful, I want to be always vigilant about looking after these boys extra carefully, as well as all the others.
Tchau meu amigo Paulo. Tem saudades de ti. Ate' logo!
(Goodbye my friend Paulo, I miss you. See you soon!)