This story is going to be hard to tell as we have lost Malite while I’ve been Stateside these last few months. Her story is one of overcoming the impossible, so that’s why my heart just doesn’t sit right knowing she’s now gone; her babies without a mom.
I met Malite the spring of 2016. She had been a part of the Starfish program and had gotten severely ill with HIV. She was admitted into a long-term care facility, where they serve those battling HIV/AIDS. When she came back to Tytoo, I can remember our staff acting as if they were seeing a ghost. They couldn’t believe she was first and foremost even alive, but more than that they couldn’t believe how great she looked. She had gained back much weight and according to them, was a new person.
At that time, we were really starting to expand our greeting card line so she was one of the first five women trained to stitch our greeting cards. She soon fell in love with Sylvio and they had twins together. I can remember the day I went to visit her and met those little babes for the first time.
As you can see in the photo, the clothes were hanging on a piece of wire and the only bed was the single one I was sitting on here. She had a tiny box in the corner with baby powder, lotion and all things baby lined up all neatly. She had the two little babes sleeping in an aluminum tub – known as a kivet in Creole – as their bed. Their lack of material possessions overwhelmed me as I set in that tiny little room they were renting. However, I can remember how proud Malite was of her babies. She was hopeful for a healthy, bright future.
We were able to hire Sylvio as our day-time security guard late 2018 and build them a new home in early 2019. Their story had my entire heart earlier this year as Malite gave birth to another healthy baby. With both parents working and the family living in their new home, I knew the future for this little babe would also be bright. The little one already had more than most babes are born into in Haiti: working parents and safe shelter. Their story was a picture of all my hard work coming to fruition, because at the end of the day, that’s my dream for families in Haiti: parents working, families living in safe places and kids being raised in a family unit – a lot harder said than done. My guess would be that less than 5% of families have both parents living together, have safe shelter and both parents have stable incomes. Less than five percent, and that’s me being generous.
I was their biggest cheerleader; they were beating the odds.
This past summer, I had a friend to come and do new headshots of all the employees at Rosie’s. We had a fun photoshoot and cheered on Malite and Sylvio as they took this beautiful picture in front of Rosie’s with their new baby. We later made a quick trip to their home and got stunning photos of all the kids together. I snapped another quick photo with one of the twins because he also has my heart. That photoshoot was probably one of the last times I saw Malite. These are photos I’ll cherish forever.
Malite passed away early November. I don’t know what happened except she got sick. It happened when Haiti was in the weeks of being intensely shut down; maybe all of that played a role in it. Maybe she couldn’t get to a clinic for her HIV meds. Maybe she couldn’t get to a hospital and it had nothing to do with her HIV. Her newborn baby passed away two weeks later. I know the baby was HIV negative, so it wasn’t that. Maybe it was the same infection Malite had. Maybe they couldn’t find milk for the babe once Malite passed. The odds are there wasn’t a clinic open that day either to serve babe due to the lockdown. I don’t know. I could ask more questions to find out, but I’m not sure my heart could even face the reality to the answers I’d find.
Because, how do we? How do we swallow the death and the heartbreak? How did their story go from bright & healthy to suddenly gone? How do we move forward when even the ones who are beating all the odds end up in the grave?
How do I go back and face it? How do I even go back and feel safe again when the streets are now controlled by gangs, people are hungrier than ever and the country is the worse its been in decades?
This life in limbo ain’t pretty. My heart’s graveyard bears so much. So, how do we keep going? Keep fighting? Keep hanging on?
Somehow faith still reigns, even though there’s been so much pain. I still hold on to the story of a baby being born in a barn. I hold on to the gift of Jesus. I cling to the promise of eternity. The retelling and reliving of these stories these last ten days have been far from easy, but maybe now you’ll understand why my heart is so weary. And when you ask, “how long are you here for?” and I stutter looking for the appropriate answer, you’ll see what I’m navigating and decide to just let us be here – in the limbo, in the unknown, in the grieving and in the healing – for just a bit longer.