Burying Friends - Part Two

It was funeral day.

Carla was from Kaukira, a village across the lagoon.

Alex and I decided that Aidan and Arlee would go with me and we would take Cumi.  Cumi's biological father lives in Kaukira and her grandmother, too.  

Darwin, Carla's brother, arranged for a friend to accompany us... Christina.    She is a Pastor's wife who is also related to the Carla's family.  Christina is a spunky lady!!  Seriously, spunky.   You cannot tell it from the pictures below, but this lady has a great personality.

She felt like she was my personal bodyguard... and took her 'job' seriously.    I never really felt like I needed a bodyguard, but such is God's provision.   And I was honored to get to know her better.

The first call we received that morning was from Darwin.   He had forgotten the 'corona'  (crown) of flowers for Carla's body.   We found a red crown of flowers on our way to the dock...

Christina ushered us onto the first boat... absolutely full of folks.   We crossed the lagoon in around 30 minutes, bouncing on the waves, wind whipping my hair into a frenzy.  

We arrived in Kaukira and I took my kids to stay with Cumi's biological aunt.  

Christina and I were picked up in a kayuku (small boat carved from tree trunk) by Darwin.  The pictures below show the river.  We traveled 15-20 minutes as Darwin navigated well.   The two pictures below of Christina and I are from this part of our trip.

Notice the outhouses built over the river.  This is very common throughout La Mosquitia.

The houses became fewer and farther between.   And, then we arrived.     The tent was set up outside for observers to have a shady place.   The family and close friends were invited inside.

In Puerto Lempira, where we live, folks are used to seeing white skin in and out of stores and driving through town on a regular basis.  In Kaukira, there is only one gringo family, missionary friends of ours, the Trasks and everyone knows who they are and where they live.    I was an unknown here.

Carla's extended family treated me like a very special guest.  I met uncles, cousins and brothers as Christina herded me toward the house.   I looked around for Carla's girls, her mom and sisters.   They were keeping watch over Carla's body inside the house.

I have no problem being the only white girl in the room.   It doesn't bother me to be talked about in Miskito.
Trouble for me begins when I don't know a cultural norm and my lack of knowledge could possibly offend.

Normally, when I enter a Miskito house, I take off my shoes.  

As Christina entered, I wondered why in the world she walked in with her dirty shoes on.  I took mine off.

We climbed the stairs and I wasn't emotionally prepared for the sight.

Carla's body laid out on a table, covered completely in a white sheet.   White sheets covering the walls;  hand-made paper hearts in the shape of a cross taped to the sheets.   Candles burning around her body.  Little girls weeping.  Eyes staring at me.   A mother rising from her vigil beside her daughter to grip me, look me in the eye and say 'thank you for coming across the lagoon.'  

I handed the crown of flowers to Carla's mother and she insisted that I be the one to place the crown on Carla's body.    My heart knew I did not deserve such an honor... and yet, this wasn't the moment to argue or try to protest.

Time stood completely still inside this tiny place where grief hovered.  

I made my way to a rough wooden bench and my senses began to take over.

Christina quickly brought me my shoes and ordered me to put them on.   I realized I was the only one without shoes.   Death changes the rules.

Carla's mom insisted that I see her body without the sheet.   Again, I thought about protesting, but she really wanted me to understand.  

I saw a frame of someone who used to be Carla.   The soul of my friend was long, long gone... and hope rose up in me.

After a time, I went to the front porch to think and pray.

Each of Carla's girls came out and quietly sat by me for a few minutes.    And that word became so real... orphan.    But really not.   These girls have an extended family that has been caring for them already.   The world may call them orphans, but I don't.   And they don't call themselves orphans, either.

I met so many people on that porch.  

And then Christina came to tell me that it was time to take pictures of the body.   Finally, I just had to say that this is not our way.   The cultural divide opened and swallowed me whole.   I could not do it... I just could not take a picture.   I pray they understood.

If you want to really know another culture, the most beautiful way to begin is by experiencing birth and death.  

Miskito families mourn in a deeply personal way.   Wailing, praying, wailing.   Usually, it is the women who mourn in the most visible way.   Today, all I could hear were the wails of our friend, Darwin, a brother whose honor and respect for his sister were evident.  

Shortly thereafter, my gringo missionary friend, Robin, came on her 4-wheeler to pick me up.   Darwin and Christina stood by me at the road.   Christina, my new spunky friend says to me, 'Laura, I love you.'    I'm taken aback and have no idea what to reply.     Darwin's eyes spoke grief.  

It was my third funeral experience in La Mosquitia.  



The Herd said…
another wow...what a different world.

Popular Posts