Every once in a while you come across someone special and you know from that very first meeting that this one is going to steal your heart.

Baby Mai came to us in January of 2007. Her mother is HIV Positive but could not get transportation to the doctor when the time came for Mai to be born and so she had the baby at home. She was not aware that by doing so the baby ran the risk of getting HIV as well. She tried caring for the child but, because she also has both of her aging parents to care for, she found it difficult to keep the baby and so she brought Mai to us.

It didn’t take long for Baby Mai to win her way into the hearts of everyone here and despite her being HIV Positive she developed rapidly into a sweet young girl, throwing her kisses to everyone as they passed by.

 It has been well over a year since we have had anyone really sick here and so when Baby Mai developed diarrhea on a Friday morning I was not really concerned. She was getting in some new teeth and I assumed that was all it was. By Sunday morning, however, she was beginning to get dehydrated and so we forced fluids throughout the day. Monday was a holiday and the clinic was closed but she appeared to be responding to the treatment. We sent her into the hospital early Tuesday morning and the Doctors decided to keep her there for observation and IV therapy.

Sina, her foster mother, called us on Saturday afternoon, just before our family service in the Temple, saying Baby Mai had died and could we come and pick up her body. I sent the car immediately and we dolefully dedicated the service in her memory… but when Mr. Sary arrived at the hospital, he found that Mai was still alive, though very sick. Her stomach and extremities were swollen and because there is no medical staff at the hospital during the weekends, the mother feared the baby would die during the night and she would be all alone in the small sterile room that the hospital provided for her. Sina and Baby Mai were exhausted and needed the support of their community and so I told Mr. Sary to bring them home.

We massaged her stomach and got her internal systems moving again. By Monday, she was looking better and, for the first time in several days, ate some solid food without vomiting. That evening she was getting back to her old self again and blew me a kiss as I went to bed… for that reason, I was surprised when Sirain called me early the next morning. “Sir… Baby Mai, dying” came the all too familiar words from out of the past.
I jumped up and rushed to the Children’s Center where I found Sina dressing Mai in her new blue dress. Sina said Mai had awakened after a fairly good night’s sleep and asked for her necklace to be put on… then she just closed her eyes and became non-responsive.
I examined Mai but could not hear any congestion in her lungs. Her skin looked even better than the night before and there were no signs of dehydration, no fever, and the heart sounds were normal, yet it was obvious she was leaving us. I called her name and she moved slightly as if to acknowledge me and then she daintily raised her small hand to her mouth and yawned, opening her eyes for just a moment as if to say, “Oh my… this is taking a bit longer then I had expected.” A few minutes later, she died peacefully in Sina’s arms.
People have questioned the wisdom in my decision to take Mai out of the hospital… from a Western perspective I can understand their reasoning but then we are not in a Western environment here and often the decisions I must make are not easy ones. If longevity were the primary purpose of living then Mai’s life was a failure and perhaps I am guilty of not doing enough to prolong her life. However if the reason for our being is to obtain total absence of all craving and suffering, then I think we can be assured she has found her Nirvana.


January 22, 2008


Those eyes gave her away on the very first day I met her… I have seen that look before, so many times in the past, and although it has been a while, I knew then and there that she would not be with us for very long.

I suppose it did have an effect on how I related to her. I wanted so much to be wrong, at least for Chay’s sake, but when she asked to return to the hospital after a month’s stay with us, I knew she would not be coming back.

For two weeks I had watched as she slowly released, the only thing she had left in this life to live for. At first, it was difficult for her, because Chay had known only her skirts as the boundaries of his world and only his Mother’s loving arms for protection and comfort… from a world that had already taken his Father. She was determined however to make sure he would be taken good care of and so she pushed him… into the arms of strangers.

She would never let him out of her sight, but day by day withdrew more and more into the shadows of his world…watching with Motherly pride, yet with tears in her eyes, as he won over the hearts of others, and showered them with the hugs and kisses once meant for her alone.

She left his life quietly… with no word of farewell, requesting to be taken to the hospital while he played in his new world.

I wasn’t planning to tell him of his mother’s passing until he grew a little older… but our children have no secrets from each other and before I knew it, his head was shaven and he had changed from a rambunctious little child to an attentive young man dressed in white.

Chay seems to have accepted his Mothers passing without question, or perhaps… like so many of our children, still feels his Mother’s presence, somewhere in the Shadows of his Existence. 

Wayne Dale Matthysse
21 January 2009