The Love of a Family
When Ratika’s husband died, her world started falling apart around her. At 20, she had been married just three years. They were three happy years and included the birth of their two daughters. But when a post-mortem revealed her husband was HIV+, Ratika knew she would have to be tested, as would her daughters. Though both daughters were HIV-, Ratika was found to be HIV+ and on receiving that news, she lost all hope and, along with it, the desire or ability to eat. Her health quickly deteriorated as did her situation. As is usual practice, Ratika had been living with her mother-in-law, but on hearing that she is HIV+, her mother-in-law ordered her to leave.
Ratika returned to her parents’ home. Their love was unshaken by her diagnosis and even when their daughter-in-law gave them an ultimatum, “Make her leave or I’ll go,” they refused to turn their daughter away. The cost of that decision was high. True to her word, she did go, taking her young son with her.
Though secure in the love of her family, Ratika’s situation continued to worsen. She was admitted to hospital and found to have fluid on the brain. She was told treatment could result in the loss of her vision but inaction would almost certainly result in death. The third round of treatment did in fact result in complete loss of vision in both her eyes. For Ratika, the loss of her sight was worse than being HIV+.
When coupled with the death of their father, this could have been a devastating outcome for Ratika’s daughters too but for the enduring love and commitment of Ratika’s family. As is the case for many others, they could have been left to fend for themselves and care for their mother but, rather, they’ve enjoyed the ongoing provision and protection of family. Where they could have developed deep bitterness and self-pity, their family has fostered the growth of contentment and confidence.
This same steadfast love and care has also enabled Ratika to be content despite her illness and blindness. It has allowed her to hope again – even to hope that she will live to see both her daughters married. It has given her confidence that she will never be utterly alone – even when her daughters are married and have moved away, even when her parents die – she is confident, “There will always be someone”.
Shalom strives to be ‘someone’ for the many who don’t enjoy the enduring love and acceptance of family when they learn they are HIV+.