In Memoriam Francis Wiwat Simmaluang (Teep)

(Sep 3,1995 - Oct 18, 2015)

Wiwat Simmalunag was born in the Nongkhai Province of Thailand on 09-03-1995. His parents died of AIDS soon after. When Teep was diagnosed of having the AIDS virus, villagers were alarmed, and physically abused the child. Teep was brought to Sarnelli at the age of 6, on January 1, 2001. These were the days before doctors and hospitals would give out anti-retrovirus drugs, and Teep had shingles 4 times. Each attack would leave him in terrible pain and weak. Then, he contacted TB and had to take some very strong medicine. Years later, when we were finally able to obtain anti-retroviral medicines, Teep’s learning abilities were badly damaged by drugs he had taken.

In the meantime, Teep was baptized in 2001, and took the name Francis. He was a fine young Catholic lad, and he received communion regularly and was confirmed.

Despite all the sickness and suffering, and the frustrations of learning, Teep grew up to be a big kid; a gentle giant. He was polite to his elders; kind and considerate to his friends and all the children at Sarnelli House. Teep loved farming. Once he finished junior high school, he gladly took up residence at the Gary & Janet Smith home in the fields of Don Wai. He was in his element, working with his hands on a farm. It is this farm work that ultimately killed him.

About a month ago, farm workers, Teep among them, were butchering a pig. It had been raining, and the floor of the abattoir was wet and muddy. The workers had a cauldron of boiling water ready. As they were pulling the dead pig to the butchering area, Teep lost his grip on the pig’s hoof, and his feet shot out from under him, sending him backwards into the boiling water. His hands could not immediately get purchase on the sides of the cauldron, and his friends pulled him out. Teep was rushed to the hospital, and then sent to the burn unit in the University Hospital in Khon Kaen. He was in deep pain, and had fluid in his lungs and showed initial signs of an impending heart attack. But, he seemed to slowly be improving. Ms. Em, his house mother was with him, with a few friends, and she promised him that she would not leave until they returned to Sarnelli House together. Em kept that promise, but not in the way she envisioned.

On the morning of October 18, we received the shocking news of Teep’s death; a quiet journey to eternity at about 4:30 AM. Teep returned to Sarnelli House that evening, and was waked with Masses every evening for three days. On October 21, we celebrated Teeps’ life at Mass, and then village men from two villages carried Tepp’s body to our crematorium, where his body was cremated. His ashes were collected to be buried in the little cemetery behind Sarnelli House.  The presence of so many villagers who knew Teep showed his popularity with simple ordinary folk, who really loved and respected him. The silent grief of the crowd attending the cremation, including Teep’s two aged grandmothers, attested to the love we all had for him.

Requiescat in pace.