Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Son Dies of Measles

Mr. Ngoma's three year old son had died of measles and the men came to me and asked if I would say some words at the childs grave. The family lived just outside the mission station and it only took a couple of minutes to make the walk. On the way, Harry, a friend and brother, told me the child had come down with the measles and died in the morning. As I walked down the dirt road with Harry I thought about disease that killed people in Zambia that we didn't think much of anymore. Ana's half brother was almost totally blind due to measles, and now a three year old has died.

I arrived at the village and was greeted by Mr. Ngoma and the other adults in the village. I expressed to him and to his wife my sorrow. About 100 feet from the huts was a small grave that had been dug, about three feet deep and about the same in length. In the bottom of the grave a slab of limestone had been placed. It seemed to fit almost perfect, with the sides and edges all chiseled to the shape of a rectangle. As I waited by the grave three of Mr. Ngoma's brothers arrived, each was carrying at least one piece of limestone. I was amazed as I watched the men place the slabs of stone in the grave making a perfect fit of each piece.

After the last piece was placed in the grave, with the cover set to the side, the son of Mr. Ngoma was brought out of the hut. He was wrapped in his blanket and was very tenderly placed in his hand hewn coffin. The perfectly hewn lid was placed on and one of the elder men began to place dirt on the coffin. After a few minutes the dirt began to mound up and another elder came forward with a tree limb about eight feet in length. The limb had been stripped of all small branches and twigs. The elder man began swinging the limb over his head and slamming it down on the mound of rust colored earth. After a minute or so of this compacting of the ground more was added.

The process of covering the grave continued for around ten minutes. When the men were done with the grave the earth had been tightly packed. Before I was to say a few words the traditional means of farewell took place. The child's plastic cup was placed at the head of the grave. It was to be his marker. At this point a tribute by his mother was given that left me deeply moved for some time. She came to the side of the grave and knelt down next to her son. She removed her wrap exposing her breast. And then she expressed breast milk onto the grave of her son. Her farewell to her flesh and blood was the most tender and moving tribute I had ever witnessed.

I spoke for a couple of minutes about the love Jesus had for all peoples and especially for children. After a reading from the bible I prayed and Harry interpreted into Tonga my prayer. I walked away from that simple grave side service deeply moved and comforted in my own soul in the knowledge of Christ and His great resurrection plan.

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