I worked all night at our cholera treatment area, and during the night I saw a comparison I never would have imagined. Stepping out of the tents for fresh air from time to time, I saw the pearly white crescent moon overhead, beautiful and calming. Inside the tents, also set against a deep darkness, the eyes of the most severe of the sick people have the same form. Eyes sunk deeply to that the whites of the eye stay below the upper eyelid, with the eye rolled upward toward the forehead. Two crescent moons. It is a scary sight to see the depth of the apathy and surrender, not an ounce of fight left. It is sadder still to see it in children.
The last time I wrote there were about 4,300 reported cases of cholera in Haiti. That number is climbing to 20,000 with 1000 deaths. I read reports that about 200,000 cases are anticipated before there is a decline. We are setting up two more tents of 16 cots each, which will put our small base at 100 beds. You can believe me that even 100 people represent enormous human suffering, as well as enormous devotion (and work!).
The public morgue will not accept bodies, for fear of cholera. You cannot even bring the garbage to the normal dump without getting stoned by the neighbours for fear of cholera. We are cremating our own dead. It is sobering to be the one to push the furnace button, after placing the child inside. All night I see how closely the parents cling to their children, accepting to sleep in the most difficult positions as they find the best way to hold their child. I watch them and admire them, but the in the case of the children I am sure will die, it seems so unfair that the children are slipping away from such tender arms. The last arms to hold them are mine, as I place them in the crematorium. The grief of the mothers is as difficult for us to take as the illness.
In the book of revelations, St John says he saw a woman “Clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” I still believe if there is a moon nearby, so is that special woman, who Christians believe to be with us in joys and in sorrows, and at the hour of our death.
Fr. Rick Frechette