by Sr. Prisca Ovat Nigeria/Kenya 05/10/2021
Returning to my first mission, I found myself taking up the responsibility for the palliative clinic. This was a new adventure, and with so much energy, I plunged into work head-on. I never saw what awaited. At first, the activities went on smoothly. Then, the apostolate began to manifest itself through a series of deaths. I witnessed the departure of three patients within one week. As I struggled to come to terms with this painful reality, a young lady in her early forties, who dropped out of school due to her illness, was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. At this point, I lost it. My first reaction was to quit the job.
A few moments later, I summoned the courage to speak with my spiritual director, who said: “the only thing I hear from you is that you can’t quit because when they see you, they see hope and become assured that life is not only always marked by the bad experience of life.” I took courage and journeyed down the road to visit the young lady. While in transit, I begged God for just one thing: “please tell me what to say to her, for I am on a hot seat. And if I have to say nothing, help me just to be.” My encounter with her was indeed shaped by divine presence. The Holy Spirit worked it through as I listened to her fears and disappointments. For her, she has become an added responsibility. For me, we have become friends. We shall together help to make life as comfortable as possible for her.
The exhaustion that I accumulate from everything happening around me and the reality of knowing that now and again that I will have to deal with the passing of souls fill me with questions of the deeper meaning of life and death. The fear and questions in the patients’ eyes, to which I often have no answers, leave me to seek understanding regarding the mystery of life. They often ask: “Sr., what can you do to help me get well again”? Yet, I know they may never really get well again in this life.
Mission always meant one thing for me: trying to make life meaningful and worthy. While it can be draining to achieve, even the difficult missions often receive the same response: “let me try.” I certainly was not prepared nor trained for the palliative clinic, yet I am learning on the job. Instead of getting lost in their pains, I choose to see my collaboration with them as a means of getting in touch and understanding true humanness.