By now you are probably well aware of what went on during our Cusco trip if you read the entry prior to this one written by Dan. I agree with him 100% that despite the inconveniences of battling the flu and being robbed, the people we met during our visit to “La Sierra” really made this trip one for the books.
Meri Diamond and her husband Dan are Columban lay missionaries in Peru. Read more about their work.
Daniel was one of those people.
During a self-guided tour of the parish ministries, I found an open door near the house where we were staying. It was the Health Center that was run along with a pharmacy by women of the community. It was there that I met Daniel.
Daniel was born with cerebral-palsy 18 years ago in a town near the parish.
He smiled at everyone, so I guess it wasn’t anything special that he smiled at me right away. I had spent time with children who suffer the same condition as he does in Anapra, Mexico, I was able to have an idea of the level of Daniel’s development.
Compared to the cases I encountered during my time at the border clinic, Daniel was highly functional, was able to get his message across and was incredibly aware of his surroundings. He liked the camera so much that he did a full range of therapy exercises for me, i.e. standing from his chair, walking the bars back and forth and cooperating during more difficult stretches.
I thought Daniel was dropped off by his mom for therapy, just like any other patient in the center. But that was not the case.
The following morning, I saw him moving himself around the patio in his wheel chair. I wondered if he was babysat at the parish ever day. After asking a few people, I was told that he had been abandoned by his mother many years ago and Columban Father Don Hornsey had been taking care of him ever since. Father pays for a caretaker who looks after him when it comes to meals, bathroom visits, etc.
Daniel sleeps on a mattress on the floor so he does not have to worry about falling when he wakes up in the morning. He has a way to go to the bathroom if there is not help around and he can get dressed to leave his bedroom and get undressed to take his bath.
He had a front row seat from the Parish Center to view the bands and dances going around the plaza for the Virgin of the Rosary festivities. Almost everyone who passed by him gave him some attention and made him laugh.
His never ending happiness and incredible awareness made me wonder: Does he understand that his mother wasn’t able to care for him? Does he miss her? What goes through his mind as he sees the days go by? Does he really understand Quechua and Spanish as well as his caretakers think he does? I will never know the answers to these questions.
All I know is that when Dan and I said good bye after our week in Combapata, Daniel did not smile. He got serious and sad. It could had been something else what was bothering him at that moment but we felt that he understood we were leaving and after all those days shared with him, we were no longer going to be around to keep him company and laugh for no reason.
I am not sure what life has in store for him, but I am sure that in our hearts Daniel will always have a special place.