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Well into his forties, Mr. Luboya was among the first afflicted persons to be
welcomed by “Parlons-Sida” (“Let’s Talk AIDS”) at the start of its activities in
the last trimester of 2002. His contacts with “Parlons-Sida” helped him to
discover and to accept his HIV status. A professional soldier, Mr. Luboya held
great store by his honour and dignity. He would only meet Father Séverin Mukoko
(or in his absence Father Rigobert Kyungu) in their offices where they also
receive other Christians of the parish, and never in the “Parlons-Sida” office.
Moreover, he had always refused to eat breakfast with the other AIDS sufferers
gathered in front of the “Parlons-Sida” office. He liked to wear a suit jacket.
A tall man, we witnessed his corpulence diminish little by little. We knew that
sometimes he would wear many layers of clothing under his jacket.

Destiny did not smile on him. During the last two years, we saw him pursue
relationships with two women. He had had other experiences before. Of these two,
one died last year when lightning hit the market of Balese (Mangobo-Kisangani),
killing six people and injuring many. Luboya’s partner was one of the victims. A
fortunate early death, we heard, for she too was already infected and had not
yet accepted her situation… The other, still living, loved him very much. But
they also experienced a good deal of strife. We would rather not say much more
about her for now.

Mr. Luboya regularly read the monthly “Parlons-Sida” pamphlets. He came of his
own volition, incognito, to the celebrations organized by “Parlons-Sida.” As a
soldier, he was promoted many times, and recently he also benefited from
training organized by Belgium for a unified army in the D.R. Congo after all
these wars. He emerged as Deputy Commissioner of the police. He was also called
“commander.” And he liked to command. When Father Séverin went to the I.A.T.
market, near the Congo River, to do some shopping, Mr. Luboya, who worked there,
would pass him off as an important civil authority and required that all
passageways be opened to him and that he receive due respect from everyone… He
had integrated military discipline very well and wanted to impose it everywhere.

He had just spent a little over a month in the hospital. There, too, he tried to
discipline everyone: caregivers, the sick, visitors, nurses. Father Séverin
liked him very much and they got along well, even if his confrontational
personality gave Father Séverin headaches on many occasions, as he had to
reconcile him with his partners and his family… Father Séverin was also the
person who insisted that he accept hospitalization. And when Father Séverin had
to leave Kisangani, he preferred to leave him a farewell note rather than say
his goodbyes in person… to avoid certain emotions…

After Father Séverin’s departure, I visited Mr. Luboya at the hospital at least
once a week. On other days, the volunteers of “Parlons-Sida” took turns to go,
and would always give me a daily report. Last Sunday, 19 September, in the
evening, I went again, with Father Martin Bahati (who has replaced Father
Séverin) and Sister Sophie (nurse and Franciscan Missionary of Mary, who often
cared for Mr. Luboya in her health centre). The previous week the “Parlons-Sida”
team had found him unbearable, demanding and even insolent, a bit too military.
Father Martin Bahati, who had visited him on Thursday, had the same opinion.
Many were beginning to be afraid of visiting him. And that Sunday night I had
decided to reprimand him…

Imagine my surprise when, reaching his bedside, his expression dissolved all my
resistance… He was brief, docile and appeared very weak. “Father, I have no more
strength; I have reached the end; I am tired… ” I attempted to raise the subject
of his recent behaviour; he answered very simply: “Forgive me for all that… ” He
also reassured us that he had sent emissaries to ask forgiveness of his partner,
whom he had just driven away from the hospital. We spoke quite calmly, and
Sister had the courage to talk to him about preparation for death, about the
necessity of reviewing one’s life… We also spoke of forgiveness, of
reconciliation with God, with others and with oneself… The encounter ended with
a prayer and a blessing. And that was the last time we met…

Monday’s visitors reported that he was calmer and more welcoming. Tuesday, he
was rather tired and spent a lot of time sleeping; that pleased his neighbours,
who were only able to rest when he was sleeping. Wednesday morning, we were told
that he was between life and death. We made our way there but, before arriving,
we learned that he had already passed away at 9 o’clock on the dot. His hospital
neighbours told us that the coma had set in the previous evening and that he had
died peacefully. The mortal remains were brought to his brother’s home, 7
minutes away from our parish. And the mourning began. The family arranged the
burial for Thursday. They also accepted that a Catholic service be celebrated
before the burial.

At mid-day on Thursday September 22nd, after the preparation of the coffin, his
older brother came to tell me that everything was ready. With Father Martin
Bahati, we went to the place of mourning. Before the celebration, I observed
what sorts of people had come to mourn. I was struck by three facts. First the
presence of “Parlons-Sida” volunteers as well as of sick persons who we know are
infected. To be more precise, it was three or four women known to our office. I
asked myself what was probably going through their hearts. The second fact is
the presence of his partner. There had been threats that she might be harmed by
the family of the deceased for one reason or another (medical, cultural…) but
“Parlons-Sida” intervened to prevent this from happening. She was very
reassured. The third fact, finally, is the military presence. At the head of the
coffin stood two police officers at attention, silent, one on the right and the
other on the left, to honour the deceased. And these officers continued by turn
throughout the wake… Then I began the celebration, assisted by Deacon Martin,
and spoke mostly about our last encounter on Sunday night. I did not go to the
burial, but learned that the military honours continued right into the cemetery.

Luboya’s death caused deep sadness within me because he had become a brother and
friend. Father Séverin, informed of his death, spoke of “heartbreak.” But at the
same time it was a liberation for a man who had suffered so much, both from his
illness and from his earthly destiny. It is a joy to have seen him die
reconciled and at peace, as could be read on his face. The military honours are
a sign of this one thing: the honour that he has always had as a child of God, a
state which he enjoys fully today.

If he could express one thing to us today, it would be gratitude. For
“Parlons-Sida” did not stigmatize him. He was considered fully human right until
the last minute of his life. Gratitude to the many invisible but so generous
hands. Gratitude to the Society of Jesus for having founded the African Jesuit
AIDS Network (AJAN); gratitude to AJAN; gratitude to the organizations that help
“Parlons-Sida;” gratitude to Father Séverin for so many sacrifices… and to us
all (the list would be too long). May we always commit ourselves to restoring
the dignity of people whose humanity is scorned by their brothers and sisters,
fellow human beings…

Nyakati zote maombi yetu yamejaa matumaini
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