by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM Ireland 05.11.2023
Nobody knew her age. She was tall and thin and looked in her early twenties, but looking back now, I think she was probably more, close to thirty. Gabi was part of the flotsam and jettison that bob up and down amidst all the port cities of the world. She was a nobody, came from nowhere and left this world unnoticed. This is her story.
I first met Gabi when I went to work at a Centre run by the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer. They are a Congregation of Sisters, started in Spain, but now international. Their main work is with women in prostitution. Gabi was one of these girls, coming into the Centre for a toilet break, a cup of coffee, a shower, sometimes just to sit and chat. She had a large, generous smile, despite the poor condition of her rotting teeth. She had been coming to the Centre on and off for about five years before I met her. She was an intelligent young woman and the Sisters had offered her training courses, hoping that she could take direction for her own life, but she couldn’t concentrate because of her drug use. She was addicted to crack cocaine.
Her early home life was nomadic. She and her mother moved from city to city, drifting from the life of prostitution to another, always hoping that things would get better. Gabi’s mother was also a drug user. Gabi told me she used to hold her mother’s arm to steady it while the mother injected the drug. Then, in the city of Salvador, the mother fell ill, too ill to travel any more. Gabi nursed her until she died. There was never an official diagnosis, but the was probably a mixture of tuberculosis and AIDS. After her death Gabi was homeless. She lived between a homeless shelter and the street. She told me she preferred the street as it was safer than theft and death threats in the shelter.
Gabi always wanted to be a mother. Several times she told us she was pregnant, but no baby ever came along. By this time, she had hitched up with a partner, Milton. He was also a drug user and was abusive to her. One day she turned up with a knife wound in her arm where he had stabbed her.
Finally, she did become pregnant and miraculously carried the baby to term. She gave birth to a baby girl and called her Ana Clara. Gabi knew she had no conditions to raise her child and voluntarily gave her up for adoption straight from the Maternity hospital. Afterwards she used to say, “But I am a mother, aren’t I?” And I would reassure her that indeed she had a beautiful baby girl.
I would love to say this story had a happy ending, but that would not be true. Gabi died on December 31st, twenty minutes before a New Year, stabbed by her partner, Milton, as she slept rough on a shop doorstep. Milton refused to identify the body and she was buried in a pauper’s grave.
Why am I telling you this story? Because I feel Gabi is one of the hundreds of people who continue to bear Christ’s suffering in this world. Is it right? Is it fair? No, but that is the way it is. I feel I was privileged to walk with Gabi during her passion and I know that she is now safe and secure in God’s eternal love. May she rest in peace.