Ms. Satoko Watanabe was contemplating the issue "How to support" and got awareness through facing the death of the person whom she had been involved with for two years
By (Yamato Church, Yokohama Diocese)
Mr. Olivio lives near AFMET office.
He got paralyzed on one side when he fell down from palm tree two years ago. He was thirty six years old and had a catheter inserted through the urethra to pass his urine. His wife took care of his urination. He had a large body and bad mouth and he was stubborn. It seemed that his neighbors avoided him. He had seven children from one year old to eighteen. His family needed his income. His wife made coconut oil and collected candle nuts to sell and get income. She not only worked but also looked after her children, did house work, farming and laundry, and cared for her husband. She pined away day by day.
We got involved with him because he had to have his catheter changed once a month. First we thought of asking Los Palos National Hospital to handle it. But we knew that he did not have a car and the manpower was not enough. We could not expect a good care if we left everything to him. So we decided to care for him continuously. He was suffering from malaria, diarrhea, the pride as man and father laid out, the role in his family lost, ashamedness and many others.
Every time I visited his house I wondered what I could do for him. I wanted to get his ramshackle house rebuilt, make a low bed so that he could move to the wheel chair easily, provide rice and fresh vegetable once a month, and give a soft bed mat and so on. To us Japanese none of them required much money and we could implement them even tomorrow. However we should not help him in these ways. The effect of the financial support by foreigners would be unexpected. For example if I implement these supports, his neighbors would no longer help him. They would say, "As a foreigner is helping him, we don't have to support him." What would happen if I or AFMET leave him one day? He would be left alone in the neighborhood. As a matter of fact he had another defect. He had been a very bad person before he got injured. He stole others' farm animals and committed violence often. Even after having got paralyzed they said that he was bad. A foreigner who did not know the situation of the village was not in a position to help him easily.
But he should not be left alone. I tried to stand a step behind as a foreigner. As a human, however, I could not leave him alone. Then what should I do?
Time passed by while I was thinking. The other day something was wrong with his catheter and I called on him. It was raining heavily and not easy to go to his house by car. The road was very bad and even four wheel-drive car slipped. I changed his catheter and checked whether any medicine needed or not. I was shocked when I saw him getting up after so long. His face was lurid and he became skin and bone. I thought it emergency. He might die while I was worrying. I might need to do something then to avoid his death rather than continuous support or something. But the effect of my action might remain for long time. I wondered what I should do.
I asked Mr. Jubensio who was his family member, and at the same time, a staff of AFMET. I said, "I want to take some action but don't want others think I help him. So can you bring some foods to him?" He said, "Well, all right. Sooner or later." "Sooner or later? Why? Any reason?" "No, not particularly." "Then, it cannot be sooner or later. What do you do if he dies? You will regret. If you can do it now, why not you do?" There might have been some cultural reason for "sooner or later" and it was not good for him to break it. So I asked him about it but there seemed not to be such thing. I said, "Shall we visit him on next Saturday, then? I will accompany you and we will buy something at the market for him."
We bought some rice, vegetable and fish at the market on Saturday. It is the best to get a help of local people on this kind of occasion. I thought that he knew what Mr. Olivio needed at that moment as he is a family member of Mr. Olivio and knew the relationship within his family, how his home was like, his past and present. We bought the foods and intended to cook and eat in his house. Then people would considerer me a foreigner who visited him with his family and I would not give an impression of helping him.
When I came to his house, he welcomed us vividly,"Hello. Glad to see you! I have been waiting for you!" I said, "How are you?" and we chatted for a while. We bought the ingredients but his wife had gone out to Saturday market. We wondered, "Is it all right to use the kitchen?" "What should we do?" "Well, shall we start, then?" We decided to cook. His children helped us to boil corns, prepare fish and make oil from half-done coconut oil. We used the oil to cook. After a while his wife came back and said, "Oh, no! You saw my dirty kitchen. That's enough. I do the rest." She looked shy and got us out of the kitchen. She said, "I'm busy and have no time to clean my kitchen. I feel shy." So we left everything to her.
We cooked fish fry, fried vegetable and boiled corn. We ate them together. Mr. Olivio who had said no appetite also ate. We chatted, "I went fishing today but could not get fish. I want to go with you next time if possible." "Have you eaten this vegetable? This is available growing around here now." After the meal his wife made coffee for us. The coffee was with sugar. People in this country put a lot of sugar in coffee and have to spend money to buy it. I was a little surprised as I had never expected to have coffee with sugar in this house.
When we left his home we said, "We'll come here again. Let's go fishing next time!" and his children saw us off. On our way home I asked Mr. Jubensio, "What do you think?" My opinion was that Mr. Olivio does not have a lack of foods so seriously as I was afraid. He agreed me. I asked, "What do you think he needs?" He answered, "His brain is occupied with foods and future of his children. He worries very much. His having no appetite means he thinks too much to eat. I think he needs time to refresh and some one to talk with other than his family."
I experienced the above last year. I remember that we said we would visit him again. After that we applied for the support with the facility for the disabled in Dili and he was granted a wheelchair and a self-control training once a week. When I came back to Japan I could get donations for Mr. Olivio in a several churches. We could support him by using the donated money for his transportation and daily expenses. We were discussing how to use the remainder. To buy a toilet for the disabled or a bed mat? A support low-profile. What I thought the most at that time was a coconut mill to make coconut oil so that his wife could get income by selling coconut oil. She once said happily that he could eat more. But after that he laid down more and his wife came to AFMET clinic to get some antiseptic solution. I asked her, "How is he? Does he get up?" She answered, "Well, he gets up sometimes, but lays down most of the time." He contacted me in April and I visited him twice to change his catheter. He looked OK and greeted me.
Mr. Jubensio and I were supposed to visit him on 30th April. I prepared a lot of clothing for him. When I got ready in my office, Mr. Jubensio called me. I said to him "We are going to Mr. Olivio's house today, aren't we?" He asked me, "Didn't you hear anything?" "What?" "He passed away." "Oh!"
He died suddenly on 29th night. I thought it would not be easy for his family to hold a funeral. I thought we must help them and spend money to buy some rice for them. Then, I was shocked at myself. He already died. When he was alive I was thinking how we should help him. But only after he had passed away we were allowed to buy and bring a lot of rice to his house and hand some money to his family. I became sad for the big contradiction. I used to criticize, "Timorese spend no money for those alive but a lot for those dead." I was about to do the same at that time. I no longer had to think about the complicated issue "How to support" and regret very much. I could have done many things for him, given him plenty of delicious food and so on. I stuck too much to the argument "How to support"
I discussed with Mr. Jubensio to buy coffee, sugar, candles, rice, salt, cooking oil and etc. following Timorese custom. I all at once got free from something which had tied me up and spent money to buy the necessary items as much as a could. When we finished shopping, Mr. Olivio's wife called me. I said to her, "I'm sorry. I heard that he had passed away." She said, "Yes, yesterday. I feel bad but can you help me? I have no rice and nothing, please." "I know. I have bought some and will come to you with Mr. Jubensio now."
On that day the public health program was on by AFMET in his village. It was Saturday and the final day. The village people gathered and I called a staff Ms. Aje to get her accompany us. When we reached to Mr. Olivio's house, a keener was singing. In Timorese funeral they sing their thoughts heartfully while crying. Mr. Olivio's body was in the ethnic costume with a colorful pattern and lay on the bed. His body was properly done and the keener was crying with a cloth over her head. Ms. Aje and Mr. Jubensio were crying beside her and told me that the keener's Fataluku words and tears were not a formality but the expression of her grief. When I saw her legs I realized that she was Mr. Olivio's wife because her calf muscles and slim ankle had impressed me when I had seen her walking for sales.
After a while she saw us. She looked tired from crying and I hugged her. When I saw her last time, she said with smile holding her youngest child, "It is tough that father is like this. We are patient all the time. Anyway, we do our best till God calls him, don't we? If we don't take care of him, God will scold us, right?" Indeed she did her best. It must have been tough, but she did it not reluctantly but with love. I said in my heart, "You did your best."
On our way back Mr. Jubensio regretted to have postponed the visit for one week and said, "I had all the time said I would visit him but not practiced it until he died. He died on the very day when we intended to visit him." I thought the same. I could not make it earlier and visited him only after he had passed away. He must be fed up in the heaven. "Now you come to me." But he probably understands that we have never forgotten about him. I told him, "Don't worry about your family. I will help them as much as I can." As he used to say, "I'm ok. But I worry about my children," I believe that he will tell me what I can do for them. I hope to help them little by little while facing the issue "How to support."