Sweet sweet Bethsaika. She fiercely fought for her life, year after year. And when she was too tired to fight, others fought for her. In the almost 3 years that I have known and loved her, she was in and out hospitals countless times...each time not knowing if it would be her last.
Shortly after we moved back to Roseville in June, I got a call that she was back in the hospital again. Her arteries were just too narrowed and damaged and she had swollen up again, not able to pass any fluids. She wasn't able to eat or drink. My parents asked me if I wanted them to send me back out there to be with her. Of course I wanted to go, but for some reason felt like it wasn't the right time. I said no, and a week later, she was released from the hospital, back home again, doing much better.
Weeks went by, and she and I face timed and touched base often...until last week, I got word that again she was back in the hospital. I woke up on a Monday morning and just knew I needed to get out there this time. She was no worse off than she'd been before, but something in me told me to go. I called my parents and asked if my mom wanted to go out there with me. My dad jumped online and within hours, he had booked me, my mom, and Ellie plane tickets using points he had, and we left that Thursday.
I desperately wanted to surprise her and everyone else, but as time passed, she got worse and worse. At the risk of exciting her heart more and possibly over-exciting her, I did feel like I had to tell her I was coming...with a chance that it might help her hang on. I let her know Wednesday that I would be there in a few days, and with labored breathing and all the strength she could muster she said in Creole, "Ok mom, I am waiting for you".
The ride into Carries from the airport was unlike any other. There were several car accidents that day. One where 17 people had died. We passed bloody, mangled, dead bodies laying in the street. One young girl was trapped inside a completely smashed car. There was absolutely no way to get her out and so people just stood there and watched as she baked in the hot car. It was so sad.
People grabbed whatever tree branches they could find to try and cover up the bodies. Thankfully, Ellie was asleep after being up all night on a red eye, and she didn't have to witness any of it. But the images are forever ingrained in my mind.
We got to the hospital the next morning and Bethsaika was by far, the sickest child in that small, crammed pediatric room. We walked in, and she was so very weak. When she saw me though, she mustered the biggest smile she could (which wasn't very big), but I knew she knew who I was and that she was happy to see us.
She wasn't able to talk much, and she wasn't able to eat or drink. I just sat beside her, wiping the sweat off her face, kissing her and hugging her.
The room was pretty hot and stuffy with no air-conditioning at this particular General Hospital so my mom sent our driver to go buy as many bags of ice as he could. He came back with bags and bags and we passed them out to all of the families in the room.
I took turns with my mom, Ellie, and a friend who had come. We all sat beside her and told her how much we love her. Ellie put a little bracelet on her that she had made.
We drove back home to Oceanview, and then my mother and I returned to the hospital again the next day.
When we arrived, I was pleased to see that she was sitting up and eating! She had way more energy and was very alert and responsive (although I had a feeling what this was though). I face-timed Tass and Lilah so she could see them.
I asked Bethsaika if there was anything in the world she wanted. She responded with "chocolate". My mother just so happened to have one protein bar in her purse and it happened to be chocolate. I broke it up in tiny little pieces and fed it to her.
After about an hour of her responding and interacting, her body was exhausted. She became very tired, and so I just laid next to her and kept rubbing her with a washcloth and ice.
I knew in my spirit that I needed to speak to her heart and tell her what I felt like she was waiting to hear.
This is one of those moments where I'm incredibly thankful I believe in a God who is bigger than me. I left Haiti being maybe 25-30% Creole speaking....but it was always so exhausting and draining for my brain.
Over the next hour with Bethsaika, something took over my mind, and I can't even explain it, but I was able to fully communicate to her every single thing that I wanted to. It flowed, and I kept going and going. I don't even know how.
I asked her if she remembered the first time we met, and we reminisced about how shy and timid she was around me. I told her that from the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew she was a very special girl. I talked about the first 4 days of seeing her and how she kept her distance from me. But after that 4th day and with me continuing to pursue her, she finally warmed up to me, came over to me, stayed by my side, and then never seemed to want to let go.
I told her that I know she has fought hard for a very long time and that she was in a lot of pain. I could see fear in her eyes, and I told her that she doesn't need to be afraid, and that if she wants to go, she can go. I said I know I will get to see you again, and that she will see Tass and Ellie and Lilah and Miss Kim again. I said, "if you want to stay and keep fighting, that's fine, but if you want to rest and go be with Jesus, that is ok too". I asked her what she wanted, and she said she wanted to die. I kept trying my best to reassure her over and over again that she didn't need to be afraid, and that it was ok...she could go. We cried, as I kept wiping her down, and I could feel her heart working so hard to where every beat shook her entire body. She struggled to breathe as her lungs were filling up with fluid, and all I could pray was "God please take her". I didn't even pray for a miracle this time. Seeing someone, let alone a child, suffer like that...it may sound harsh to pray for someone to die, but it felt like the most merciful thing I could do.
The time came for us to go, I told her I loved her and that I will see her again. The last clear thing she said to us was, "Thank you". She chose to say it in English instead of Creole.
I hugged her mother and told her that she is a good mom. She has had to watch her child suffer year after year, and she is always the one who takes her to the hospital, stays with her, sleeps in a plastic chair for weeks on end, goes without food, and does her best to try and stay on top of the plethora of medications Bethsaika was given. I sometimes find it weird that she too calls me Mommy Sheena, but I think it's an acknowledgment that I love her daughter as well and she can see that and is grateful.
We left the hospital, and got to spend a day with all of the people in the village and at the orphanage which was like water to my soul. I went and checked on Bethsaika's little brother several times, and gave him a report of how she was doing. He hadn't eaten in quite a while so we gave him all that we had brought.
We left early the next morning. It was a very quick trip.
Bethsaika's mom sent me a voice message asking if we had left already and arrived home. Once I got it, I told her that yes we had arrived home (early early Wednesday morning).
After a few hours sleep, I woke up in my own bed Wednesday, frustrated and torn apart that she was suffering so so much. I begged God to take her that day. No more. I just wanted her suffering to end.
That night, Tass came home from work, and we sat down to talk about my trip. My phone was turned face down, as I don't like any distractions when I'm talking with someone. I told him about the trip, and for some reason in the middle of my sentence reached for my phone, turned it over, and saw a message that was 13 minutes old:
Relief. Disbelief. Sadness. Joy. Heartache and so much more.
Tass and I sobbed there in the kitchen. We called the girls over a little later and told them. We stood in the kitchen, and my heart broke for her family...her little brother. I asked Tass to pray for him.
Ellie and Lilah have been so so sweet, hugging and kissing us so much these last 24 hours and making sure I eat. Ellie, our 9 year old, has been crying but because of a different reason. She told me last night that although she didn't have as strong of connection with Bethsaika as I had, she has a strong connection with another little girl, and she broke down sobbing because she said, "Mom I can't imagine something happening to ____ and how you must feel right now".
Please pray for the community of Carries (Car-ee-es). Bethsaika (Bet-siy-kuh) was known and beloved by everyone and even though she was 13, she was called "bebe" (baby) because she was so tiny. If you asked anyone where bebe was, they knew exactly who you were talking about.
Bebe....I think about our reunion one day and how sweet it will be. But I am sad that it will not be the next time I return to Haiti...it will be a little longer ways away. I am so happy that your body is virus free, disease free, pain free, that you can breathe and dance and walk and sing. You forever changed my life, my family's life, and my children's lives. Thank you. I love you so much, and I hope, I hope you knew just how much you were loved.