Bare with me a minute, and…
Imagine if you will, that you hold the limp body of your baby boy in your arms, fear coursing through your veins as you hear him struggling to breathe, terrified that the next breath will be his last. You know you need to do something, you know his life is slipping away, but what can you do? There is no doctor to take him to, and the nearest help is a three hour boat ride away. But it’s nighttime now and everyone knows you cannot travel in the dark. Tomorrow you will go with the money the missionaries gave you, and see the doctor on the other island. But for now you wait. Thoughts fill your mind of what the “albulario” (witch doctor) said to you today. Can it be a ghost in your home causing your little one to suffer like this? What have you done to deserve this punishment?
As morning dawns you watch your baby boy fall into an eternal sleep. Dread fills you, knowing he is gone forever. He never made it to his second month of life, just like so many on the island. So you lay his lifeless body on a bamboo bed and wrap his clothes in a plastic bag in front of his tiny feet. You long to hold on to them, sweet memories of your tiny boy. But you can never use them again, for fear of bringing bad luck to your home.
Many will come to see your babies body today and for several days following, and offer you words of condolence. The neighbors all quietly rally around doing what has been done for centuries. The men gather pieces of left over wood and scraps to make a coffin. Women sit around chatting, in whispering tones not knowing what to say. Soon they will cut your baby open removing the organs in preparation of embalming him. People bring rice and food for the meal that will take place after the burial. It seems like just the other day you sat across the dead body of your brother. Just 21 years old and gone too soon. You named your baby after him, and now a year after your brother he is gone too. Grief overwhelms you and you wonder how much more you will suffer in this life.
Tonight you know you will not sleep as many people surround you gambling and drinking. It’s the way of your people, and it’s better than being alone with your thoughts and your grief. Sleep eludes you anyway. Your husband will join them. To forget. And so the grief will be yours to carry alone tonight.
When the time comes to bury your little one you will put him in a grave along with generations of your family who have all lived and died on this island. You should feel relief at not having to look at his lifeless body, but now he truly feels gone. Every year you will paint his grave for All Saints Day and leave food to appease the spirits in memory of your little one who never made it passed his second month of life. And in your heart you wonder, is there more to life than this?
What if there was more to life? What if even death held hope? What if there was joy to found in every circumstance? But you never knew it, because no one ever told you.
I know I should be writing a New Years post, but somehow after the loss of another life on the island today, a New Years post seems forced. Please forgive the lack of photos, but what does one put in a post like this? Not the photo of a tiny lifeless body now forever imprinted on my mind. So much of life on this island is filled with sadness and loss. So much is about struggle and suffering. So many times I am filled with a deep sadness for these people I have come to love, who live a life without hope. Their hope is in their harvest, in their next generation, and sometimes, even in us.
It is for this that we have come! To bring hope to the hopeless. To share with them the love of a Savior who gave His life for them. To be His feet here on this little patch of earth. Oh Let this be the year, that many come to know of that hope! Let this be the year that they are finally set free! We are standing on the brink of it, and I can hardly wait!
Lord willing, soon they will echo the words of 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, oh death, is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?
Please keep us and the people of Agutaya in your prayers. May the Lord bless you abundantly in 2017.
The le Rouxs