Huddled together on a breezy winter’s day, a small gathering of family and friends stood in silence as the minister read from the bible at the graveside of Siha Zama. Elizabeth Ann, head bowed, looked frail in a black dress that hung limply on her small, wiry frame. She was thinking about Siha’s slow, shameful death and the silence that surrounded them as he died. They did not speak of his illness. People did not ask what was … they knew. Silence would be the best way to respect his wife as she tried in vain to keep him comfortable. Her quiet caring was expected and given without comment, without rage. But Elizabeth Ann knew that Siha had brought a terrible dark shadow into their lives.
She stared at the grave site, lost in her thoughts.
“What could God do for him? What would God do for her? Should she just remain silent, keep on going? Who will take care of her when her time comes?”
She looked around the cemetery at the mounds of fresh earth surrounding them. Siha’s grave would be just another fresh mound.
“People are tired of coming, standing among all those mounds of earth,” she thought. “What are we going to do? How can we stop this?”
Standing next to the minister, Elizabeth Ann knew she could no longer keep the silence. She needed to speak up. When the minister finished his reading, she took a deep breath as she summoned the courage to speak.
“God thank you for being here with us today as we say goodbye to my husband, Siha. Welcome him into your arms…”
[An extract from “I am HIV: Ordinary people daring to live and make change in South Africa.” Deborah Mindry]