The day I met Olise I remember thinking that it was unfair that she was there. She looked fragile and far too old for the energetic job we offered. Not having the heart to turn her away Mme Jeanel assigned her to work with the smallest babies. Most afternoons during the babies' nap time I would find Olise nodding off in a small chair, her body exhausted from a long, difficult life.
As I began to speak to her more I learned a lot about Olise. I learned that she once had a husband but that he had died many years ago. I learned that she had borne 6 children and buried 2. She had placed one child for adoption. The remaining 3 she had struggled to feed, clothe and care for alone. I learned that she was living in a tent with several family members and she was the only one with a steady source of income. One day I asked Olise how old she was, she told me she didn’t know but that she was born “in the beginning of Papa Doc.” This would make her roughly 50 years old, I couldn’t believe it. This old woman was barely older than my own parents, and looked a decade more mature. Then again, the average life expectancy in Haiti is 58 years.
Sometimes Olise would talk to me about what Haiti was like when she was growing up. She told me of years where she ate her fill, and seasons filled with storms, violence and fear. She talked of days where the mountains were filled with trees. Her version of the good old days. I can only imagine the things that Olise saw in her life.
Olise lived in a tent city between Leogane and Carrefour. In the lasts 11 1/2 months of her life she watched her homeland change more than she could have thought possible. After surviving an earthquake, life in a tent, a hurricane and threatening disease, Olise was killed this morning while walking along the side of a road. In less time than it took for buildings to crumble last January, a bus struck and killed our sweet nanny.
Olise took pride in her babies, she smiled and cheered for their accomplishments. Each evening at the house we have a small worship service for the children and nannies, usually Olise was asleep by the time the service started but never fail, she would rise from her bed to come and participate, with hands held high and a crackly voice raised in praise she would worship. Olise loved other people and she loved Jesus. What more should I say about her, in the end, what more really, truly matters?