February 25, 2016
This week has been marked by huge contrasts: the nights have been filled with the gentle light of a full moon; the sunset period has been marked with the sun dipping in the west while the moon rises in the east (from our perch on this hill, we see unimpeded all the way to the horizon in both directions); and, we had the funeral of Myesero. This very sad event took enormous effort to pull together as her family gathered in a village 20 miles from here where Myesero’s maternal grandmother lives. So, a flatbed truck was hired to haul all of us from here to there. We also brought food, firewood, and pots and pans. I stood in back with the students clinging to a roll bar as we bounced our way over the washed out roads. Once there, the totally devastating sadness settled in and we all fell pretty silent as preparations were under way. The grave was being dug, food was being prepared for a crowd which reached 1,500, and various preachers were greeting each other and organizing their thoughts. Incredible singing would break out from time to time to relieve some of the gathering gloom. I was asked to be part of a group of three to place flowers on the casket just before burial. I was incredibly honored and agreed to join the head teacher and Myesero’s best friend. Then, the service started. Everyone sat on the ground in sweltering heat while five preachers delivered animated exhortations aimed at helping the assembled throng not give up on God — that His good intentions would win out in the end and Satan’s bad intentions would become evident in time. This was all translated for me later. We then started off down this long hill. The boys (my students) had organized to carry the casket which they did by holding wooden sticks underneath. The procession wound its way down the hill and across a small bridge with the teachers (including me) right behind the casket. The boys worked out a rippling rotation much like Canada Geese with replacements coming in at the front and moving back until relieved. They functioned like a well oiled machine. Up the next hill we went with the brightly colored turbans on the women’s heads leading the way and beautiful singing, lifting our spirits. By the time we had reached the tree line which held the cemetery, we had walked two miles in searing heat. Everyone sat amongst the trees and more preachers spoke at great length. I continue to be amazed by the patience of the people of Malawi. By now, the service had gone on for three hours. Children sat quietly with adults and basically, noone moved (except me!). When the service ended, the women all rose, singing beautifully and led us back to the village where food was served. Incredible. Then the truck ride home. This is a very religious country and I sincerely hope that the people’s devotion allows them to retain some vestige of positive thinking in the face of enormous adversity. Certainly the health care system is flawed enough to cause concern as people seem to go to the hospital to have teeth extracted or to die. These are not great options and healthy children ought not die after a week’s illness. Sad news from Malawi.
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