Os reproducimos la emotiva carta del Hno. Jacob al Hno. Manuel desde Nairobi.
Letter to Br. Manuel García Viejo.
Dear Br. Pen,
“O this night of sorrows, night of weeping and of pain.
O night of thoughts. Night of sleeplessness. Night of torture.
O what a fearful night. A night of tears. Thursday 25 September 2014.
A night I had a closest moments with you but in tears.
We have been together but this night was different
for it is the most grievous being with you.
When I had the pain of meeting you no more.
The pain that we shall not see your smile any more.
A night of questions but that of reality.
A night when I got a short sms from your superior; “ Br. Manuel is dead”
A night I made sure we are no longer going to take fraternal walks and chats in the streets of Mabesseneh.
O what a fear that I will never hear you ask at the operating table,
‘my pincers, my compress or clean ‘abeg’’ etc.
O that night which we shall never hear again from You, ‘give for the simple….’
A week before this night 19th of September 2014, I sent you a message on
WhatsApp but no reply and I called you no reply. I called Br. Victor who announce to me you were sick.
Meaning we could never send messages and hear each other on phone
This is the night which I became aware that we shall pray
the office of the dead for you the next morning and with the chant you so use to sing at the top of your voice
‘I am the bread of life…, I will raise him up’
You were such a sent person to us to share the goodness of God through the gift of your person. Your mission of service reflects a man of compassion to all.
You were that person of hospitality. You could go without food, without drink, without airtime on the phone, without rest… but always with the PEN. You transformed your Pen into life given instrument. You could forget your door keys but not the Pen. You could forget names of our collaborators but not Your Pen. The Pen was You. It was that promptness in which You responded to hospitality, O Br Pen. With Your Pen you could heal and touch the lives of many. You could write just a treatment and life starts again for some people with ill health. You combined the hospitality and fraternity to be unique, for the patients were your friends ready to welcome them. Your Pen could write ‘to be operated’ and this has to be done to give life again. That is why I ask that you permit me to baptize you with the name Br. Pen for your entry to the kingdom of heaven.
I hope you have handed on your short trousers. Those you always put on as a symbol of flexibility. You were always in shorts to permit you rush to the hospital to attend to the needy patients on time. You had handed us Br. Victor Kargbo and I your habit on the occasion of Your 50th Anniversary of Religious life on 20 December 2012. This was following condition you gave us in order that you put it on that day; “I shall put it on that day if you promise to share among the two of you after the feast”. We accepted and you said Br. Victor takes the sutane and I take the scapular. We were unable to understand then that this life is handing on of values of hospitality. You had always nourished it with reflections you send to me always from Jose Pagola a great theologian of our time. Today we are accepting not only the Religious habit but also what you signified by that. By that you were handing to us all your simplicity, commitment in community, the poor and service to the Brothers. Although being a Medical Doctor you were able to get up at 4 a.m. to prepare for the Brothers; cakes, “churos”, flan, drinks that correspond to the feasts, etc. what a service to community. On your 50th Anniversary of Religious life you were the Chief cook to show your devotion of service to the community. So we are asking you to hand us this your short trousers to us so that we can be ready to serve the sick and the community in your example of our time. Where are we going to get such a brother again.
You know I am afraid I may never have to spend the Christmas night as we used to do. The two Christmas nights I spent in Sierra Leone with you were very interesting for me. I remember you used to be the Priest and I the mass server. For we always had our Vigil of Christmas in the theatre. Whenever we got ready for mass that’s when an emergency came and your question to me was “what to do?” and without getting an answer you replied “come on”. The deal is done for us to assist the patient in pain to relief him. This was the understanding for Christmas for you. A child born to relief the sick people. May you intercede for us to keep this Good News of the birth of Christ so that patients may find relief at any time.
Oh who will be there for the poorest patients who come desperate? Those who come empty handed to you but you always had a solution to their problems. I know you of offering even your blood. I remember the many hundreds of patients with lack of blood. Not to waste time you will go and offer yourself to the laboratory to extract YOUR OWN BLOOD in order that the patient lives. The question you will ask me is ‘what to do?’ with this the next minute you are in the laboratory to donate blood. Even with your age you could not stand living and seeing someone dying because of lack of blood when you have. For all those who came without money, once you see a need even of operation you will pay for them and operate them again. At one moment you handed me some money for patients because the number of the needy was getting higher and you could not fully support. But each time you need to help you came back to me and ask PERMISSION for me to use your own money to help. Dear Br. Pen, it’s still a dream you are leaving so early. You had contracted Tuberculosis some years back just in the course of service to the patients, but you still came back to Africa because like St. John of God, you had heard a voice saying “Sierra Leone shall be your cross” and this you showed up to the giving up of your life.
Don’t forget to prepare a room for me for I will be coming one day to dwell in this new community you have gone to form together with Brs. Patrick N., Miguel P., George, all victims of Ebola virus. You had told me on phone in July 2014 when the Provincial was here visiting us in Nairobi “Jacob you talk with the Provincial since he is visiting you so that you come with me to Spain in September for a month of holiday”. I didn’t know you meant in September you will go and prepare for this our eternal holiday which all of us are invited by God in His Kingdom one day to rest. As you are there greet the other three Brothers for us and tell them to intercede for us and the patients they have left for us to care. More people are needed to help our patients but we are sure you have gone to do a better thing; to intercede for us while we work.
After our Provincial chapter in May 2014 and appointments in June 2014, when we spoke on phone you told me “Jacob we have a very young superior now”. I said yes and why did you not become superior? Your answer was “this is not for me because you need to fight with the Brothers always”. You have no time for power and authority. The service to the poor is keeping you busy.
I ask myself how I could integrate myself to the medical field if not of your tireless effort to push me into practice. I was from school as a nurse with much theory and without experience. But you paved the way for me in the face of fear in the exercise of duties in the field. You were a good teacher. I hope you where satisfied with what I was doing because you were sure if you send me to do something on a patient you doubted not but needed just a report from me. I was able to know many things within a short time thanks to your experience you tried to pass over to me. You were too busy but the one who used to read more than all of us brothers in same community with you. You read from 9p.m to 12 a.m and then 4 a.m you are there reading. At times what we practiced during the day in the next hours you called me in your room to show me what we did from documents and also from your old class notes which were older than me and precious to you. Any new message I will be the first to hear from you or any new thing in your life I will be the one to see first. In all these you will be on time at chapel to thank God in the evening for the graces of service and the next morning to commend the new day to him.
Some years ago you were crowned by the people of Mabesseneh (earthly Angels and Saints) an action whom God is now approving you by crowning you in His Kingdom. This coronation was earthly and yet you did not present yourself as an earthly king for you waited for this gracious moment to be the Heavenly King of the Patients.
If at all it was possible to change the words of the Psalmist, we could do so; “no man can ransom even a brother, or pay God his own ransom”. (Psalm 49:8). For if you were to be ransomed Br. Pen, these many people you have saved from dying could at least have one who could stand to die in your place. But the Psalmist had already said this so no one can change God’s words. For you could be ransomed as a sign of appreciation from all those you have touched by your healing Pen and hands.
My aim was not to make you tired with a long letter which you are receiving for the first time from me, always we write only short e mails. I have no desire to make your biography because I will be too insufficient to portray who you are. But let me end here and give you time to attend to your patients whom you cherished and put in the first place of your life. I expect to read your farewell message as I used to be the one to read anything you have to present. I read your detailed famous speech which you surprised all of us with at your 50th anniversary of Religious life. From your childhood till that day 12 December 2012. So I am waiting for the farewell as you leave Lunsar community to join the new heavenly community.
I can only conclude with the words of Ecclesiastes which coincided with the first mass we had for you this morning;
“a time to give birth, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant” (Ecclesiastes 3:2).
A time to welcome, a time to say goodbye.
A time to take a walk and a time to be immobile.
I time to WhatsApp and a time of no response from you.
A time for you to climb on a Pick-up of Fr. Gianni together with
Dr. Bienvenido to take a drive in Lunsar town, and a time of calm.
A time for you to respond on phone “what happen or di mi”
and a time of no feedback from you.
A time to consult all day or stay standing at the age of 57 the whole day
in the operating theatre from 9 a.m to 5p.m and a time for you to rest.
And you will not sit down even when writing the report of patients
for you will tell me the chair is not for me.
A time to be together and time for loneliness.
May be if I was still by you we could probably we could be transferred together to heavenly community.
Thank you Br. Pen for the life you shared with me.
Thanks for the friendship.
Thanks for the Hospitality.
I hope to see you again.
Thanks for the many lives touched and thanks for what am unable to express in this short letter to you. May You Rest In Peace and till we meet again. Amen.
Your son Br. Jacob T. Ketchen OH.
Nairobi 26 September 2014.