Celia and I met Kendry during our October trip. Though we meet and pray for numerous children on each hospital visit, that time there was an immediate rapport with a young boy named Kendry and his mom because he and I look like we could be related. There are not many blonde, blue-eyed boys in Cuba!
Hospital staff noticed the bond that was created and they wrote me emails to keep me updated. The Hope of Life team noticed as well, and as soon as each one greeted me last week their next comment was, “Tu amiguito Kendry no está bien.” One dear sister on the team even said, “prepare yourself to see Kendry in the final phase of his life.”
When we did get to see Kendry last week, he had been moved from his regular room and was now in one of the two very large rooms at the end of the hall. These rooms are not an upgrade. These are the palliative care rooms, the “we’ve done all we can and we will just try to keep your child as pain-free as we can” rooms.
The cancer had distorted Kendry’s appearance to such an extent that he looked like an alien. His head was very swollen and his eyes seemed to be pushed forward. He had lost his hair, and all the veins in his head were very pronounced, as if someone had drawn blue lines on his pale skin. His limbs were stretched out, disproportionately long for his tiny torso.
The day we visited his pain level was tolerable. Dr. Juan Carlos had increased the morphine shots to every 4 hours, so Kendry was no longer biting his arm or hitting his head against the wall, trying to stop the pain. Still, Kendry did not make much eye contact with us or really react to our presence in the room. Until Celia brought out the cars.
We had purchased some Matchbox cars in Miami and Celia pulled a few out of a zip-lock bag. “Would you like a little car?” Kendry extended his hand and took one and looked at it. “Kendry, you can have as many as you want.” Kendry grabbed another one and a broad smile swept across his face, not unlike how an adult would react at winning the lottery. He had a sparkle in his eyes as he grabbed another car, and then a fourth one. Kendry left the fifth one in Celia’s hand because, you know, it wouldn’t be right to take ALL the cars.
Kendry was in his mother’s arms and Celia went around behind the chair to gently stroke his head. I was seated on the bed right next to him. “What can we bring you?” Celia asked him. No reply. “Is there something special we can bring you?” One might think a dying child would ask for something big, maybe even something impossible. “Mango juice,” Kendry croaked in reply. Pastor José hurried out of the room to bring him some.
I asked pastor Eliseo to pray and he knelt down to share the Gospel with Kendry but he did so in a way that I knew he was really speaking to all the adults in the room, including several hospital staff. Eliseo placed his hands on Kendry’s arms and I placed mine on his chest in such a way that I could feel his little heartbeat as Eliseo prayed. “Lord, let this little heart keep beating,” I whispered.
His mother, a Christian, was grateful for our visit and for the supplies the team brought her. She had been with Kendry in the hospital for four months. She did not look tired or weepy. She looked strong. The dad, however, though affable and friendly, showed the strain he was going through. He would smile and hug us, and the tears would well up in his eyes right to the limit of spilling over onto his cheeks. What they were going through seemed unbearably hard. Then we found out about the pigs.
Kendry’s family survives through farming in a remote area. The dad had not been staying with Kendry at the hospital due to his responsibilities at their farm; it’s all they have. Then about a week prior to our visit the dad received the dreaded call, “You need to come right away. There might not be much time left.” It was not the first time he had left the farm to go see his dying son but it was the first time he stayed overnight. And that night someone crept onto his property and stole the family’s 19 pigs.
Later that day as I reflected on the hospital visit, I considered how the time with Kendry put my convictions to the test. When a little boy I care about is dying, platitudes and catchy bumper-sticker sayings — even Christian ones that I generally like — are scrutinized due to my proximity to his suffering. The living room debates about certain theological points are literally thousands of miles away as I come face to face with Kendry’s misshapen head and pained expression. I believe my convictions passed the Kendry test; nonetheless I felt a powerlessness that continues to gnaw at me.
I take comfort in the fact that you and I know the One who has both the power that cures and also the power to rejoice if no cure comes. But first things first: will you join me in asking the Father to heal Kendry? God’s direct intervention is the only thing that can extend his earthly life, and I would really like to see Kendry again on my next trip.
Thank you and God bless you,