Jabu had been to the free clinic. Jabu had received medication for her illnesses. Jabu had been surrounded by supportive friends and loving family since the moment she walked back onto the farm. Then came the phone call that threw a monkey (not a monkey wrench) into the whole operation and screwed everything up.
Jabu's boyfriend, Judas (father of her second child) called her and demanded to know why she had not returned yet. After not listening to her reasons, he told her that if she didn't come home in 2 days, then it was over between them.
To any outsider, the situation seems easy to handle. This boyfriend was the one who infected Jabu. This boyfriend was the one who never took care of Jabu as she was getting ill. This boyfriend never visited Jabu at the farm to see how she was feeling. This boyfriend has had other affairs while together with Jabu. This boyfriend was the same boyfriend who to this day refuses to get tested for HIV or allow their child to go receive medical attention even though the young boy is HIV positive.
Why on earth should Jabu care to go back to him?
"Because he loves me.... and I love him."
For hours, her sisters on the farm talked to her. They made their case telling her that she was surrounded by people who loved her on the farm. They would take care of her, get her food and water, help her get around, make sure she's taking her medication and eating healthy. They would stay by her side and love and care for her until she was healthy again, or until the day she died. They were only met with empty, sad, and troubled eyes staring into nothingness.
They tried to make her understand that they would do anything for her, no matter what, and if she did get back, there was no one that would look after her - and she knew that. But ultimately, they admitted, it was her choice.
Many of the kids on the farm came to talk to Jabu separately that nite - each telling her that they loved her and wanted her to stay. Even Jen, who had taken days off from work, driven in from Jo'burg, spent her own gas money and paid for other expenses on the way, who had gone thru such lengths just to get Jabu proper medical attention, and give her a fighting chance to get healthy again and stay alive to watch her kids grow up, tried talking to Jabu for a long time, seemingly in vain.
The next day was a long day for many people here. Jabu was deciding what to do. Feeling that she might actually leave, her older sister Ellen decided that our last hope was to call on Jabu's boyfriend, Judas, to come to the farm and talk to the family to try and work something out.
Ellen walked the 3km to where Jabu's boyfriend lived. She found him at the house, sitting outside, drinking with other people, a young woman laughing as she sat on his lap. Ellen contained herself as she watched Judas caressing the young woman's back, endlessly flirting with her as he dodged questions she was asking him.
Ellen made the request that he come to the farm to talk to the family to work something out. He finally got fed up and responded, "If the soccer game ends before 5:00, I'll come over. If it ends at 6:00, I'm not coming over." Ellen didn't expect to get any further, and so returned home.
Needless to say, Judas never showed up. Ellen reported all that she saw to Jabu, who was unmoved by anything she heard. Judas called again that evening telling Jabu that if she wasn't home by the end of the day tomorrow, it was over between them.
Jabu's 5 year old daughter, Ayanda, has lived here on the farm with the other kids for most of her young life. She would occasionally go stay by her mother, but often preferred the company of the other kids on the farm. Ayanda absolutely loves her mother to bits and pieces. She stayed by her for a few hours that nite, aware her mother was ill, but clueless about the decision she was about to make. My heart was bleeding for Ayanda. Her mother grew up without ever knowing her parents, and she would now be faced with the same fate, if her mother decided to leave.
I checked on Jabu the next morning. She was sleeping soundly even at 10 am. When I came back that evening, Ellen informed me that Jabu left that afternoon.
Jabu had told Ellen her reason for leaving and going back to Judas. She said:
"I'd rather die with him than die alone."
After Ellen related to me Jabu's rationale for leaving, I don't know why, but I was unable to suppress an audible chuckle. Ellen did the same. How could we laugh or find anything funny after what just happened? Jabu's health would again start to rapidly deteriorate, her one year old son had no chance of surviving very long without seeing a doctor, and her boyfriend was already busy spreading the virus to other women in the village. Jabu was fully aware of this, but still was convinced that it didn't matter, because he loved her.
I wasn't sure how to react. Maybe that's why I laughed.
Jabu apparently didn't understand or chose to ignore the fact that family can love someone just as much and more so than a boyfriend can (especially when that boyfriend is busy fooling around with other women). She also seemed to have forgotten what it meant to be part of and surrounded by, a loving family. She had thought herself to be alone, even in the company of all her sisters and brothers and friends. She put her boyfriend before anyone else in her life, including herself, and her own children.
Myself, I cannot fathom the thought process there. And that's a lot of the reason why this disease has been able to spread as much as it has, in my view. Nothing seems logical or to make sense in this decision making process. Jabu's thoughts and feelings were her own, she knew how her actions would affect others, and she knew the consequences of her decisions. We all knew which decision she would make in the end, we all could have predicted it. We don't know why or how she arrived at that decision, but we do know that it is an all too common thought process among so many young women around South Africa.
Death does not seem to be a concern or worry to so many people out here. And quite often as well, they don't seem to take others into consideration when making certain choices in their lives.
The reasons for this may be many, may be complicated, or may be very simple. I will not risk putting in writing my own thoughts and opinions as to why this seems to be common place here in South Africa. However, this is an open forum for discussion for those who do wish to talk about it.
As for Ellen, her other sisters, myself, Jen, and everyone else here on the farm who was involved with Jabu the past week, we are able to find comfort in the fact that we did everything we could to help Jabu, and we know we would have done more if it was within our power.
But ultimately, you cannot help someone who does not wish to be helped.
I am always open for conversation, and hearing what you have to say.