Monday, June 30, 2014

Hoping for Heaven

Over the years I've been to many funerals and burials.  In fact, I believe I attended 21 funerals by the time I was 22 years old.  Then we moved to Uganda.  Death here is not foreign. In fact, it seems as common as paying one's school fees.  It is an unwelcome visitor that comes knocking on the young and the old, unbiased by age, status, or prestige. Today was one of those days where we sipped the bitter gall of a life now gone, hoping for Heaven. 

This morning Betty came knocking before 7 AM, bearing the news of a double death.  We lost one of our past 'daughter's' and former Childcare and Family Institute employee. She was one of those young ladies who's smile and deep round eyes bring joy to my mind as I think of her.  She was quiet, gentle, and loving.  She left New Hope a few years back, with her womb full of her first born son and her heart seeking love in places gone wrong.  Four years later, her second born, a daughter, died within her.  It seems from what I understand, toxemia took her life along with the baby.  

In these moments of culture and burying people, true lineage is most important. In this case, the body of the mother went west to be buried with her family, and the baby was brought out here to rest in the ground near the home of the father's family. It seems so odd to my western mind -mother and baby, both two in one flesh just yesterday, torn apart and buried nowhere near one another today.  So with this in mind, we knew we were going to the burial of this precious nameless baby girl.

After a quick lunch and in the heat of the day, I gathered my little Malakai into my arms and carefully strapped him to me with my sling. I cautiously climbed sidesaddle onto Keith's boda-boda (moterbike), tucked my skirt around me, and held on to Kai's head while we bumped along the dusty path until we reached Mama Jane's house.  Mama Jane is our friend and employee at the Institute- she is the mother of the "husband" and grandmother to the baby. 

All was quiet around the simple brick house, as the body had not yet arrived from Kampala. I removed my shoes and stepped into the silent house, carefully whispering greetings to the women seated on the floor and in the few chairs around the home.  Mama Jane stepped out to greet me, holding on to me like only a mother would for more then the brief moment or two a normal hug allows. Malakai squirmed within the sling, but he was gracious enough to give us this time.

Within a few moments, the baby's body arrived. I had stepped out of the house to greet newcomers, then returned to where a group of woman were dressing the body.  As I peered into the casket, the baby's tiny face appeared. Resting peacefully in the arms of Another.

Mama Jane and another older Jaja (grandmother) carefully dressed the babe, putting her into a sleeper with snaps down the front. Dressing her like they'd dressed their own babies now grown. 
Blanket after blanket were handed to them by the three women next to me, until she was carefully swaddled like every newborn I've ever held.  Hearing sniffles next to me, I looked at the three blanket bearing women.  All three of them are close to my age, in the prime of bearing children and holding them on their hips. All three have wrapped a baby and buried him or her deep down in the dirt. Given back to the One who gives. I hugged Malakai's sweet blonde curls close to my neck, savoring his life, his breath.  My mind wandered to his little form, His life bound to my side pricked my heart. God's gift. Malakai -God's messenger. All these babies are God's gift. I won't let the world tell me otherwise.

We all shuffled out to the garden, where weeds and plants had been hacked away for our feet to trample next to the small hole that had been dug in the rusty African soil. Familiar Jesus-loving songs were sung as we listened to God's name being lifted up while tears tugged at our eyes and our hearts.  Such heartache and tragedy to partake in.  It's too much at times to understand the loss, the grief, the pain of death. This world is tainted, groaning for it's redemption.  It's only in the future glory we can hope and cling to without disappointment. 

I read through this writing by Charles Morris (via Ann Voskamp) this afternoon while processing all of this. I cannot say it any better: 
   "To see His face, to have His hand wipe away every one of those tears we still weep, to be remade in Him, to enter into His joy—that’s our hope.
      And it’s more than just our own personal hope; it’s the hope of the entire world. It’s more than knowing we’ll go to heaven when we die; it’s knowing the day of the Lord is coming when Jesus will remake the cosmos."

Until then, we wait.  Not as those without hope, but with a hope that cries "Maranatha!" Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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