When a person dies it is as if the very fabric of ones life gets ripped out. The rippings show in a myriad of forms. It can be a particular smell, or an object placed by the person in a specific position. The simplest item can trigger some major thoughts and memories.

On Thursday we lost a dear friend, Martha Molaudi. Martha lived with us from 2006. To the children she was like a second mom. Martha was a remarkable woman of courage. She was the main provider for seven people. She passed away on Thursday evening due to liver failure.

The circumstances surrounding her liver failure has caused me to reflect a lot.

It failed due to the negligence of the clinic that gave her the wrong tuberculosis medication. When she was finally admitted to the hospital the staff couldn’t give her the care she needed because of the strikes that lasted for three weeks. In the space of three months the medical systems failed her miserably.

During the strike I watched an interview where they asked a hospital worker what he thinks about people who will die as a result of him striking. He mentioned the phrase, “collateral damage”. Collateral damage had a name – Martha.

Martha lived in a different South Africa than the one I live in. She lived in the South Africa that was crippled by oppression. Every day was a struggle for the survival of her family. In the time we knew her she spent every cent on the wellbeing of the seven people she took care of.

African Theologian Jean-Mark Ela described in the 1970’s what we are still experiencing in South Africa. He described healthcare in his essay “The health of those without dignity” that is,

“ …becoming the privilege of an elite. Who could possibly claim that the current medical system provides service to peasants or manual laborers in the slums? Does it contribute to enhancing the status of the mother, or acknowledge the key role African women play in educating children …? Or is this elitist medical care monopolized by some social groups for their own benefit – even though it consumes the scanty resources allocated to the health budget?” p.69

More than ever I’m struck by the inequality in our country. Particularly as it is manifested through the medical system. The rich can afford the best medical care while the poor suffer still.

Ela writes further,

What’s the use of a “medicine” co-opted for the benefits of wealthy minorities, when the “lives” of those neglected by its progress are stuck in structures of inequality and injustice?”.

In a question worth exploring he asks,

“How are we to live the gospel in a situation where hospitals themselves are centres of exploitation and corruption?”

Martha passed away on our daughter Tayla’s 5th birthday. It was a day with mixed emotions.

In the few years Martha lived with us she made some huge footprints in our hearts. In so many ways her life mirrored that of Martha in Luke 10, it is now a time wherein she can have her Mary time.