[Warning, this is a longer one, but I’m still processing and grieving the events of today. Written Monday.]
Less than 24 hours ago, he was in the arms of his mama. Now he’s in the arms of Jesus. Yesterday he was alive, now he is buried in the ground. He lived only nine months, but was cherished every day.
Today I attended the funeral and burial of a nine-month-old baby boy – the fourth child of my students Nhando and Maria. He died just earlier this morning and because there is no method of embalming in Mozambique, the baby was buried only hours later. All three previous children have died of the same symptoms – lung trouble – and what appears to be cystic fibrosis (hereditary.)
However, there is no means of such testing here in Mozambique, and if there was, it would be too expensive. So Nhando and Maria have tried again three more times for a baby that will live, but all four children have died (the previous three died within only days or weeks of delivery.) At ages 27 and 23, Nhando and Maria have already buried four children.
The funeral was a cultural experience, but nothing different from what I anticipated it would be. Some go to the hospital to receive the body, but I and the four others I was traveling with were late because we found a friend broken down in the road.
So we went to Nhando and Maria’s house at the Bible College. We stood outside their home and we sang and prayed, looking upon the baby boy in the small white casket. He looked the same as he had the last time I saw him, only days earlier, sleeping. Together with all the students and some community people, we gathered around, and we mourned together.
Then the casket was loaded into the back of a pick-up, and we went to the cemetery. Rachel and I walked hand-in-hand down the dirt path and through the brush up the hill, to where a large hole had already been dug. With men on one side and women on the other, we stood around the hole. We sang more, we cried more, and we prayed more. Maria laid in the dirt and wept. Nhando stood, arms crossed, very stoic, with Pastor Matusee’s arm on his shoulder.
Pastor C gave a wonderful message then together we lowered the casket, we poured in the dirt, we planted flowers, and we watered the flowers. Nhando remained stoic, and Maria remained in the dirt, weeping.
Then we returned to the campus for more singing, praying, and condolences.
The portuguese word for 'compassion' is 'misercordia'. I have never before seen compassion in the body of Christ like I saw at the graveside today.