Her name was Audelina Riya Jean Louis but to us she was Aude. In April 1997 God asked us to welcome her into our home- Kay Christine and on 19th September 2009 God called her from us and took her from us. As simple as that – He gave her to us and He took her from us. Sounds ok doesn’t it but of course it is not as easy as that. Indeed I am sitting here at my computer trying to figure out how I am going to write a little bit about Aude so you can have an idea about the life of this beautiful girl.
Audelina lived in a very broken body. Her eyes moved constantly and yet she could not see anything as she was blind. Her body could not move at all – unless in a spasm! She was trapped in a body that was rigid and stiff, where even the blood could not circulate freely and so her feet were often very cold. Not only that but her body grew crooked – her spine was very curved – a condition known as scoliosis. Sometimes her head would move but this was usually when she was having some kind of seizure activity. Can you imagine what it must have been like to have lived in such a body? Totally dependant. She was not able to talk but she was able to let us know when she was in pain and she was able to let us know when she was happy. She recognized voices and she recognized certain noises. Aude was aware of her environment and when she wanted attention she was able to communicate that need.
I was in Ireland when I got the phone call to tell me Audelina had died. She had been sick for a few days but nothing indicated that she was going to die. She died in the arms of Rosemite – one of the staff. Rosemite was taking care of her and had just washed her face when she gave a last breath and died. Poor Rosemite – Rosemite is one of our physical therapists and she has a very gentle touch. I can imagine her washing Audelina’s face with great care and with great love. How nice for Audelina that she should die in the arms of one that loved her. How nice that the last touch she received was one of gentle love.
Rosemite phoned me to give me the news. She could not talk and I could not talk either. I had known that they were going to the Doctor that day and I knew that they had come home after taking care of everything. A team of people were looking after her every need, Dr. Rachel, Norma, Rosemite, Carmelle, Athis – and all the others. All came together to make sure that she had the best of care. But she died. Norma tried and tried to bring her back to life but she had made up her mind and she was not coming back.
I came from Ireland to be with my Kay Christine family and to bury “my” little girl. It was a hard journey but one I was determined to take. I arrived in front of Kay Christine and a multitude of open arms awaited me. Tears flowed freely and loved poured generously onto grief and I faced the inevitable. There she was, laid out in her communion clothes, looking every bit the angel that she was/is. Our therapy room has welcomed many beautiful coffins over the years and given that the kids spend so much time there receiving therapy it is fitting that as we prepare them for their final journey, it is in this room that we say our goodbyes.
She looked so at peace, roving eyes finally at rest and a twisted body freed from tension. I was conscious of the fact that I just had two hours left to look at this cherished face- two hours before the coffin would be closed and I could not touch her any more. Two hours would never be enough but I was so thankful that I had those two hours and that I had been able to get flights from Ireland to allow me to be there.
At first I was by myself with Audelina as everyone gave me this time with her. Then the kids started coming in – and they mixed their tears with mine and as I looked around I felt so so happy that Audelina had such a wonderful family. In twelve years with us she never had a night in the hospital. Imagine that! She had so many medical complications, she could hardly open her mouth to eat and yet somehow we managed to keep her healthy all those years. No small feat! I looked around our therapy room and it was quickly filling up with kids and staff as the time was getting shorter. Outside the rain poured from the heavens – torrential rain to match our grief. We wondered would it stop to allow us to bury our Aude. We prayed, we cried, we snuffled and sniffed and we looked on the face of Aude for a last time.
Four months previously we had gone through the exact same thing when we said good bye to Darline Leon. I looked at each child (some are young adults now!) and I could not help wondering how long before we are here again – crying our goodbyes for another. Audelina had a beautiful send off. The rain stopped and everything went very well. I have no doubt she is in a better place now just as I have no doubt that we did all we could for her while she was in our care. But it is hard. For all of us that loved Aude it is hard.
Life goes on. Our mission is not an easy one because there is a good chance that we will outlive many of our children here in Kay Christine. We can do the best we can but we will not change the inevitable and our mission is to accompany our children on their journey through life. We were lucky with Audelina because due to her physical condition no one would have expected her to live to be 17yrs. We were lucky because for twelve years she lived with us and she accepted with great grace and dignity all that came her way. She was very patient with all of us and rarely complained. The fact that she could complain shows us that if she wanted to she could have made it difficult for us to take care of her. But no, she bore her limitations with great patience and she rewarded kindness and love with smile and laughs!
I know I speak for many people when I say I thank God for her presence in our lives. May she enjoy an eternal life free from limitations and full of possibilities.
I thank all of you who have helped Audelina during her 12 years with us. I am sure she will be happy now to help each of you in your own lives!