Goodbye, Nina, Goodbye

“I loved her very much,” said Desteny Adams, a palliative nurse at the Centurion Hospice. She cried. For Nina. the loss of a brave woman beaten by cancer.

It was a cold day in June – during lockdown level 4 – and only a few people stood in front of the Centurion Hospice’s conference centre that was converted into a chapel.

A candle stood on a table. “She was like a candle in the wind”, said Karen du Toit exhaling deeply, crying.   “She suffered badly. She could not clean her own wounds. We had to do it for her.”

Nina died at the age of 72 – but she was not alone. Karin held her hand until she took her last breath.

“Why was she so special?” asked referend Francois Esterhuizen from the NG Church Raslouw.


Her face was maimed, scarred by the cancer, but people did not see her face, they saw her beautiful heart and personality.

She lived in a garage in the East Rand looking after her sister’s grandson. She did not have children of her own.

There was no electricity or water.

She had only her SASA pension, but she always managed to feed the little boy.

She was sick.

She had neither family nor friends who could look after her.

But …

She was funny.

She made people laugh.

She baked cakes and took it to the neighbours.

She looked, to the best of her ability, after her sister’s grandson, even though she had no family to support her.

Nina’s live changed for the better when Karen heard about her situation through mutual church friends.

“We did not know her, but we decided to take her and her grandson into our home,” Karen said.

She stayed with them for or only a few days when her health started to deteriorate.  That was when Karen decided to involve the Centurion Hospice.  Our palliative nurse and care workers took a bit of the physical and emotional burden from Karen’s shoulders.

“I remember her, sitting on the porch, on her favourite chair, a cigarette in her hand,” said Herman, one of Karen’s neighbours during the service. “I did not know her for long, but I will never forget her.”

Referend Esterhuizen was quiet. Just for a moment. “Their story reminds me of the story in Matthew. The Good Samaritan.

“You took care of my wounds.

You gave me food when I was hungry.

You gave me water when I was thirsty.

And you did not even know me.”

Karin blown out the candle. Goodbye, Nina, she said, goodbye.

* Pseudonyms are used to protect the identity of the patients and Samaritans


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