If you ask my children about their very first memories of arriving at the Kay Mari orphanage, they would say that it was meeting Djoulie. This sweet twelve year old girl could speak better English than almost anyone else at the orphanage. She was brilliantly smart, and shined with kindness that reached out to everyone. My very favorite memories of Djoulie are when she was playing dolls and tea party with Eliana and Olivia.
Djoulie had sickle cell anemia, which can cause bouts of severe pain and fatigue. Last week, she experienced complications of sickle cell and infections, and was rushed to a nearby hospital. Soon after, she was taken by helicopter to a larger hospital in Port au Prince to be given multiple blood transfusions and to be placed on a ventilator. Unfortunately, she became so gravely sick, and the doctors could not help her poor body to recover.
The entire time of her illness, Djoulie was surrounded by such love. Sister Florence, who is one of the most amazing women I have ever met, stayed by her side almost continually. She put her own life at risk, sleeping in a car at the hospital and navigating the city to make sure the doctors had the blood donations and supplies they needed. Sister was supported by other members of the mission here, who drove into Port au Prince to help her. Everyone back at the orphanage kept a continual vigil of prayer for Djoulie and her helpers. In fact, we heard of people praying for Djoulie in so many cities and countries all over the world.
My children had their very first experience with real grief this week. We prayed and prayed for Djoulie, and we warned them that she was very critically ill. When news of her death reached the orphanage, we could hear the cries of sadness all the way up the road at our house. Each of our children have experienced grief and responded in their own way: Emma is such a people-person. She has been spending as much time as possible at the orphanage, often just sitting silently with her arm around her little friends. Selah has quietly mourned, and also has been able to comfort and care for her little siblings during the stressful week. Eliana had the most difficult time with Djoulie’s passing. She misses her terribly, and she found it very sad to hear the cries of other people.
I spent most of the week keeping our little children away from the sadness at the orphanage. They attended a few minutes of the funeral mass, but mostly stayed home. After the procession and burial, we brought them quietly to the gravesite with flowers. They seemed to understand that their friend’s body is in the ground, but her soul is heading to be with Jesus in heaven. Olivia said, “I miss having tea parties with Djoulie.”
I cannot imagine how much the children and staff at the orphanage must miss sweet Djoulie. The sadness that we witnessed was overwhelming. However, after she was laid to rest, I also watched their strength and peace. We all know that we can’t help but rejoice for Djoulie. She has no more illness or pain! What an honor it has been to meet this amazing girl before she died, and to know that we will meet her again someday.