Tuesday, March 28, 2017
“When one child dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.” — John Donne
Another child in our neighborhood died yesterday of malaria. So sad. I hate malaria. It has killed eleven children under six years of age just here in our neighborhood which is too many and even that’s low as thousands die every day. At least the Christians here see their child in the arms of Jesus which gives them some relief, but the pain of losing a child is not diminished by the fact that so many others have died. I think they do funerals here better than we do in the West. Funerals here require four days. The deceased is buried within 24 hours because there are no funeral homes and no embalming. Then there are three days of sitting with the survivors. Everything is done by the family. They purchase the coffin, wrap the body, pour powerfully smelling oils on it, and arrange the burial which may be at the house or in a cemetery. The women and the men stay separate with the women in the house weeping and the men outside standing around—it is not appropriate for the men to cry except they usually forgive the father weeping for his child. The family and neighbors pass a hat to raise the funds for the burial expenses and the food to feed all those who traveled to come to the funeral. It also affects the neighbors because every neighbor is required to donate some money and to attend for some time (if you don’t attend a neighbor’s funeral, folks will come by later and take money from you). Also, no work is allowed near the house where the funeral is being held. When we were building our house, I came one day to inspect and found no one at work. Before I got too mad, someone explained to me that a neighbor's child had died. The first of many. Karen and I have been to too many funerals and sent staff members if we were too ill to attend. We also always send money to help pay for food as every neighborhood funeral is a community project. It's a very pragmatic yet emotional event, and I rather like the way they do things. It was very similar with the Indian tribes in the Amazon where I worked on more than one occasion. Sincere, holy, emotional, and practical--not a bad way to go, although the pain is the same whether the deceased is a child or an old person. Loss is loss. We hurt for all those who hurt and pray hard for everyone who has a hole in a part of their heart that will never be filled. God bless those who mourn for they will be comforted.