Not long until Christmas now and everywhere there is an air of expectation. Albert Einstein once said that there are two different attitudes to life: the first is to live as though there are no such things as miracles and the second is to regard everything as a miracle. In the Belarusian Children’s Hospice we have gone for the second choice. For us, life is a miracle made up of miraculous years, wonderful months, excellent weeks, fantastic days, unforgettable hours, irreplaceable minutes and magic seconds. Perhaps you will say that this is simply a defence mechanism, to avoid looking reality in the face, but I cannot agree. Concentrating on the positive, plus sides of life is more natural than looking for the negative. Especially in the run up to Christmas.
On 1st September 2011, the day that most children in Belarus go back to school after the long summer holidays, the Belarusian Children’s Hospice took on a new patient, a little girl called Angelika.
She had had her 7th birthday in April and if it hadn’t been for her illness she would have been joining the other children who, at age 7, start school for the first time. Angelika came to us from the Cancer Hospital where she had spent several months being treated for cancer of the brain stem. The story of her short life is not a happy one. She was born in a tiny provincial town in the Vitebsk region of Belarus to a single mother. It was not long before the authorities took her away from her mother who was a heavy drinker and unable to care for her properly. Some distant relatives took her in. At first Angelika was happy with them and even started calling her aunt “Mummy”. Some years later the aunt had her own baby and started paying less and less attention to Angelika. When the little girl was diagnosed with cancer of the brain, she was transferred to Minsk for treatment. In all those months nobody came to see her in hospital. As soon as our Hospice took her on as one of its patients, her adopted family contacted us and said that they did not want to be responsible for her any longer and did not want her back home. However, the question did not arise, for on 29th November little Angelika died, having spent the last three months of her life as an in-patient at the hospice.
For three months we did everything we could so that this little girl, who had not known the love of others, should feel loved, should feel that somebody wanted her. During her short time in the hospice she made more friends than at any other time in her life. Our resident child therapist spent a lot of time with her drawing and chatting, our volunteers came to see her and thought up all sorts of treats, told her stories and once even gave her a manicure. There was always someone with her and medical help was always close at hand. She had a special mattress to make her more comfortable, oxygen and an inhaler.
When she died it was blow to us all although we knew that we had done everything we could. It is one of those situations where your conscience is clear but your heart aches and not so easy to explain things logically to one’s heart. This, of course, is the trouble with working at a children’s hospice. You do everything you can and you do it well, with love, but the final, end result is that the child dies and you are left feeling that it is not fair. Children should not suffer and die.
Albert Einstein said that each of us chooses his or her own attitude to life. At BCH we try to make life a miracle. During her last days Angelika said, 'Thank you for making my dream come true'. At BCH we really do believe in these fairytale worlds, these dreams that we create for the children do come true.
I would like to thank all of you who have supported the Belarusian Children’s Hospice in 2011. With your help we have been able to create even more miracles!