Natule John receiving ARVs at TASO in 2006.
I am sad to bear the news that Poultry Project participant Natule John passed away on August 17, 2008; he was just sixteen years old.
We visited his home yesterday to express our sympathy and pay our respect to his family.
As we were driving up the mountain Peter mentioned how he used to make the very same ascent, but on his motorcycle. We were all amazed, and kind of shocked that he would drive along those narrow and winding dirt roads. It would take nearly 45-minutes to make it to the top – if the conditions were good. I just assumed he was a secret daredevil and thought nothing more about it.
After reaching the top of the mountain, we began our silent walk to Natule John’s house. His aunt’s home, where he had been living during his final days, was beyond the dirt road, tucked into the side of the mountain among cabbage gardens, coffee trees, and miles of blue sky.
We met his family and they graciously took us to his grave where we stood over the freshly laid cement that was still drying in the sunlight. We said our prayers, made peace with John and bid him farewell. We all thought of his harrowing tales of life as an orphan, living with HIV, battling cancer, enduring the pain of neglect, and the isolation he must have felt when he was ostracized and stigmatized by his uncle (his former guardian).
Before we left, I asked his family if they wanted to say something special about John. They said he was friendly, a happy child, and that they will miss him very much. We then said our goodbyes and Peter and I made our way back to the car.
Peter then told me, “Natule John was such a jolly boy. He loved visitors so much and he would beam when anyone came to see him.”
I then realized that Peter had been making those long hikes up the mountain to see his friend. Natule John died knowing someone cared, he died knowing he had a friend, someone who supported him, and gave him love when there was nothing else to give.
Natule John will always be remembered and honored.
His untimely death will motivate us to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS and his memory will inspire us to share love with all beings, no exceptions.
Natule John, we wish you peace and everlasting happiness. May your memory live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved you.
The view from the mountain where Natule John rests
August 22nd, 2008