When I think of all the strength we need to get through the day, all the resilience needed for the women to pick themselves up and make a new life, I am both inspired and very tired! I have had the privilege to journey with the many of the women of Sari Bari into the crises of their everyday life. One story that holds me, because the woman herself holds my heart, is Rina.
Rina was one for the first women at Sari Bari. She joined in our second year and became a centerpiece of joy. She was absolutely hilarious, self-deprecating and sarcastic. She was also sick a lot. Later we came to find out, because of what was the beginnings of the Well-woman check-up at that time, that she was HIV positive. A challenging diagnosis anywhere but certainly she faces additional challenges being in India and in a community that because of a lack of understanding, made her potentially even more isolated. I sat with her in our small office and told her the news, reassuring her that she didn’t have to be afraid, there was medicine, there was hope.
That was the beginning of an intimate journey in friendship. I held her secret and walked with her, along with several others in our community, through doctor visits and negotiating the very specific places where she could get the treatment she needed. One toward the end of the workday, it was clear that Rina was very sick and needed emergency care. So we moved into action and took her to a private hospital, one whose Christian mission was for the poor. We were promptly turned away when we revealed her diagnosis. And so she came to my house that day, and I bathed her and put her in dry clothes and put her bed, hoping that hydration and the meds we had were enough.
And she never left, not until the end when hospital beds were the norm. She lived with me for almost a year, at first in my tiny space and then in an empty room downstairs. She told me her stories, the really hard ones. And I told her my stories, the hard ones. And she shared the burden of my hard days as I shared hers. She liked when I made pasta with mushroom ( a definitively non-Indian dish). She made my occasional clove cigarette at the end of a long day and open secret to all of the ladies at Sari Bari.
She was my journey partner for a long season. A sister and a friend. Her journey was especially hard and it took our whole community to walk with her. I was apart of it and there was Beth and so many others. It was almost everyone at Sari Bari and my landlady and so many of you who came alongside us.
We need journey partners. We need a whole community and infrastructure and the facilities that support our journey to wholeness.