Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dignity in death

We didn’t have the chance to know his name. We only know him as Thin Yannat’s father. He was a living skeleton—with sunken eyes and protruding bones. He was suffering from AIDS. Narlin, Megan, Aye Phet, our Burmese co-woker and I had visited him in different occasion to bring food and medicine. We came to know him because we take care of his child for him and he was grateful to us for doing it. He wept when his child was kidnapped but managed a faint smile when we got her back.

He was once a reliable factory worker here in Mae Sai. But he was kicked out from work when the employer learned he had AIDS. His work permit expired and he became a homeless illegal immigrant. We didn’t know how he got the HIV virus, when you saw a person suffering, it seems not to matter anymore.

No money and very sick, he could not go home to Myanmar. His friends wanted to take care of him, but he refused. He did not want to be a burden to them. Nobody wanted to take him to the hospital because of the humor floating around that poor illegal Burmese migrants are euthanized. It is only a rumor but it is not unfounded as well.

He was dying trying to keep his dignity by caring for himself as he waited for death. He was lying down in great pain in a shanty made of grass roof and wall of nets. He was living with a family of scavengers who themselves were impoverished illegal immigrants. Too weak to move and in excruciating pain, he strived to live on his own in spite of inevitable death.

This was the situation when we found him. He wanted to go home to Burma before he died. With his friends, they attempted to bring him across the river. We knew that it was impossible to get him to cross the border legally without him getting into trouble with the Thai police.

So, they put him into the boat and when they were about to paddle across, a policeman came into the view and they aborted their plan and hoped for another opportunity. But this would not come again, the exertion had been too much for his frail body that he died in their arms. We all silently wept for him. We wept because of compassion for the man. We wept for his child. And we wept because we fail to minister to a dying man in his last moment.

Before he died, Aye Phet asked a Pastor to come and minister to him because he knew that Pastor personally and at one time he attended his church. The Pastor was one of the students at the Missions Training Center. Narlin went to pick him up and asked him to minister to the dying man. He refused and nonchalantly replied that the man was not a member of his church. Narlin cried out loud and let her emotions of frustrations burst out in anger toward the Pastor.

The Pastor refused to minister to a dying man and it made us angry. Narlin and I were their teachers and we were supposed to be responsible for teaching these local pastors about ministering to the dying people. However, we unbalancedly focused on Biblical studies in expense of teaching them practical theology. The incident demonstrates the failure of imbalance teaching. What good is biblical knowledge when you cannot minister to the people in a time they badly needed it? Perhaps we wept because we failed to teach these people.

What are we going to do with the dead body of an illegal migrant who died of AIDS? This was our next dilemma until our Pastor (this is not the same person mentioned) told us to report it to the Village leader. With the Pastor’s help and some members of Mae Sai Grace Church, we called the Moo Ban’s (Village) Rescue 199. They helped us buried the man in a graveyard readily provided for the situation like this which we believe is not uncommon in Mae Sai, poor illegal migrants who die of an illness without any relatives and thus were simply buried in an unknown grave. Together with the Pastor we gave the man a funeral ceremony he rightly deserved. We were comforted knowing that he believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior before he died.

No comments: