Story of Compassion: A Once in Lifetime Double Epiphany

The greatest moment in a nurse’s life is the moment they realise exactly why they chose to do what they do.

It’s that moment when everything suddenly makes perfect sense… when you fully understand your greater purpose… the reason you exist… the reason you do what you do.For some it never happens… and, to some, it happens early in their lives.  For others, like Staff Nurse Joey Stemmet, it took most of her nursing career – until she joined Breede River Hospice.

This is Joey’s story: 

Staff Nurse Joey Stemmet has lived in Robertson in the Western Cape, South Africa all her life. Dedicated to her nursing profession, she served her local community for many years working in local government clinics and at the Robertson hospital. While she was always very happy with her daily nursing work in the community clinics, she non-the-less, felt unfulfilled in her greater purpose. Knowing that something else was waiting for her in her future, she resigned from the government healthcare services to return home to become a happy housewife.

After a few months at home, she was approached by Sr. Jane Phillips, the general manager of Breede River Hospice, and was asked whether she would consider joining their patient care team.                                                                                                                                                       

Somewhat unsure, she took up the offer and it wasn’t long before she came immersed in attending to the many patients Breede River Hospice was looking after – mostly patients living in impoverished communities throughout the Langeberg region.For the most part, she enjoyed her new role as part of the hospice patient care team – now believing that God’s calling was for her to serve those who needed her the most.  As time transpired, she began to feel a sense of fulfilment in her ‘higher calling’.

Joey Stemmet and her husband lived on a small-holding in Robertson and, as it happened, had 20 years earlier taken pity on a poor vagrant who they took under their wings and who then came to live with them in exchange for working on their farm part time – His name was Abraham Absalon.

On weekends, it was Abraham’s habit to go and visit friends in the Bo-dorp on Saturdays. He often returned ‘under the influence…’ and would speak endlessly of Villiersdorp, where he grew up – and also about his days hiking and travelling around the country.

One Tuesday, Joey drove out to Bonnievale to admit a hospice patient who lived on a farm nearby.  As she entered the farm-worker’s cottage, she introduced herself and asked how the ‘oom’ was doing. Despite him having just been diagnosed as terminally-ill, his positive attitude and response really struck her.For admission (to hospice), she asked him for his ID booklet and, as she opened it, she saw the splitting image of her own worker, Abraham, right in front of her. Astounded by their likeness, she immediately saw this man’s surname was also ‘Absalon’ – his first name: ‘Andries’.  Not hesitating, she asked him where he grew up – to which he replied, ‘Villiersdorp’. Trying hard to contain herself, she asked Andries to name his brothers – to which he named his youngest brother as ‘Abraham’.

Containing her growing excitement, Joey explained to him that his youngest brother, Abraham, had lived with and worked for her for the last 20 years.  Andries, in absolute disbelief, told Joey that he had not seen or heard of his brother for over 50 years!

Joey, eager to bring the 2 brothers together as soon as possible, promised Andries that on her day off – that next Thursday morning  –  she would bring his brother from Robertson to meet him.  She took a photo of him on her smartphone and after finishing her hospice paperwork, she left.

When she got home, she showed Abraham the photo on her phone and asked him if he recognised the face in the photo. – Abraham replied that he believed the photo was of himself. Joey asked him to tell her once again, what his brothers names were.  As he mentioned his brother’s, Andries’s, name, she stopped him and told him that the photo on her phone was, in fact, his brother Andries.  Joey explained her visit to Bonnievale and how she had discovered him.  With tears welling in his eyes, Abraham told Joey that he had not seen his older brother for over 50 years.

That following Thursday, Abraham and Joey drove through to his brother’s house. As they walked into Andries’s house, tears began to run down his face. Abraham reached out to shake his brother’s hand, but Andries pulled him close and gave him a kiss, instead. 

Standing there witnessing that incredible moment of re-union after a life-time of separation and the incredible joy and happiness that both brothers experienced re-uniting and re-igniting each other was THAT exact moment that it struck Joey  that her life-time higher calling had finally been realised.

For all the years that Staff Nurse Joey had worked as nurse, she had questioned the true purpose behind her doing what she did.  This incredible reunion proved to be her moment of full realisation – her epiphany – that brought her to full understanding that her purpose on earth – God’s purpose – had always been to serve as a hospice nurse.

Staff Nurse Joey Stemmet’s conviction and dedicatation to the work she does with Breede River Hospice has never been stronger.Since Abraham’s and Andries’s re-union 8 weeks ago, Andries has sadly passed. Of greater significance, though, was the fact that both brothers – the oldest and the youngest – were ‘meant’ to re-discover each other and be able to spend valuable time with each other before Andries passed.  –  A perfect closure to a wonderfully fulfilling experience for them all.

To find out more about the wonderful work Breede River Hospice does, visit their website :