Wedding, check. Funeral, check check.

After attending a wedding and a funeral in the same week, I feel like I have been dunked head-first into Belizean culture and forgot to plug my nose…

Six hours after we visited Antonia’s uncle on Wednesday, he died!

So, on Thursday morning, instead of teaching, we went to the family’s house and helped clear out furniture for the wake. I moved two washing-machines off the porch, carried 3 couches out of the kitchen, moved two rusty beds (springs with cardboard on top) into an empty room, poured buckets of water onto the sidewalk to wash away the mud and clear a path, swept the yard, and then, just when I was feeling totally useless and white (or “clear” as they call me) curtains needed to be hung and I happened to be the tallest person in the room. So I hung curtain rods until lunch—not on windows, but along the walls in the room where the body would lay.

I taught one class in the afternoon, but spent the rest of the day helping to prepare for the wake. It is expected that everyone in the village attend the wake, which is held at the house, and the entire street is blocked off to allow room for chairs and huge tents. Each family is also expected to bring coffee, sugar, soft drinks or rice & beans, so each teacher pitched in $14 to provide 8 cases of soft drinks from the school.

The wake usually begins around 6 or 7 and goes all night until sunrise. The family of the deceased does not sleep until the body is buried, and it is the responsibility of the village to make sure the family is never alone during that time. It felt more like Carmel Fest than a wake. The streets were lined with lawn chairs and pick-up trucks and huge circus tents, and all the Standard 5 and 6 girls were serving food and drinks around the clock. There were four huge speakers broadcasting hymns loud enough that I could hear them a mile away at Ida’s house when I went home. Antonia’s mother and sister sang hymns and played the keyboard until about 2 in the morning with breaks in between when Antonia’s father gave messages.

People ate and talked through the whole thing, kids were running around, teenagers were sitting on tailgates listening to music—but the entire village was there. I think I understood what community meant for those few hours (I only lasted until 11pm, then David drove me home). During the time I was there, about 800 people were in attendance, and while I was shocked at first and uncomfortable with what seemed like a cultural disrespect for death and grieving, I understood when I left that the purpose was not to greet the family and offer condolences for an hour or two, but to actually give up your life for the entire 24 hours before the body is buried to physically be present for the grieving family should they decide to walk outside and need something. I wish I could say I’d had more stamina…

The next morning at school all the teachers collected evergreen branches and made wreaths to bring to the funeral.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

I taught two classes in the morning, and then school was dismissed at 11:30 for everyone to attend the funeral at 2. Eight of the ten teachers were related to the man who died. David’s school in San Marcos closed for the funeral, and also two schools in San Ignacio.

Antonia took me to the church an hour early (in Belize they wear black, white and purple to funerals- purple symbolizing the color of hurt or pain) to help pass out hymnals and pour water. It was really weird being with the family during a time like this, considering I’m not in the family and have only been honorary family for one week, but I was really glad I could help with things.

The funeral service lasted about 2 hours, and when it was over, they loaded the casket onto the back of a pick-up truck, and everyone in the church walked behind the truck to the cemetery for the burial. Everyone brought homemade wreaths and crepe-paper flowers and sang hymns around the grave while the family said goodbye to the body. When the family was ready, the casket was lifted into the 6 foot above ground cement grave, and the cement was actually mixed right there while we sang, and men from the village poured bucket after bucket of cement onto the casket and buried the body as we watched. We waited for the cement to begin to firm and then placed all the wreaths on top of and around the grave. The entire thing from beginning to end lasted for about 4 hours.

When Antonia was walking me home later, we stopped at a little roadside stand and she bought me a coke and 2 choco-bananas to thank me for all the help. I gave her every bit of the 40 cents in my pocket and thanked her for including me.

Photobucket

I can’t believe it has only been one week, today, since I arrived. It feels like about three lifetimes already.

My classes yesterday and today did skits and role-play. They were really cute:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket
Photobucket

Photobucket

Tonight after the funeral, I played hide-and-go seek with the kids on my street. They also took me through the Iguana reserve to the river and showed me where the rope swing is in case I wanted to swim…

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Sunset tonight (view of San Ignacio on the ridge):
Photobucket

Photobucket

Kids playing soccer outside my window
Photobucket

Photobucket

Praise: One week finished- good and bad, up and down, but finished!

Prayer: The 13 y/o boy in my house got really sick this morning and had to go to the hospital. They tested him for Malaria and are waiting for results.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Wedding, check. Funeral, check check.”

  1. just imagine if you were born in indiana, grew up in indiana, and never left? you’d have to struggle within yourself to understand grief and letting go without ever seeing the jewish feasting plates and special silverware or the huge overnight musical gathering in belize. doesn’t it help to know that not everyone processes death the same way? on that note, i’m sorry to say that six more of our soldiers from vilseck died. SIX! they were on a patrol and entered a house that was boobie-trapped from the back so it would detinate when the house was full of people. a bunch more are injured, too. dave (wendy’s husband) is taking care of all the memorials, etc. glad you’re there, but wish you were here : )

    Like

  2. i loved Elaine’s comment. So true. Just think of Brandon: in such a rut and doesn’t even know it. You, on the other hand, are blazing through life, turning over rocks, seeing what makes the world tick. You are my hero, and my lens to the rest of the world. Look for God’s fingerprints everywhere you go…I know they are just under yours!

    Like

  3. It’s so interesting to hear (and see) what’s going on where you and Elaine are. You painted a really good picture of the funeral and I’m so glad you’ve made it so that we can experience some of this with you through your blog. Like Elaine said- it’s so good to know people grieve in other ways. You’ll never be the same- because this is shaping a new you. Thank God you are experiencing more of His creation.

    Like

  4. P.S. The picture of the iguana seriously reminded me of the D@#! bugs in Fort Wayne. I will probably have a nightmare about that monstrous thing tonight! Keep safe.

    Like

  5. Hey Brooke. I liked what you said about giving up your life for 24 hours to be available to the grieving family. I was laughing up to that point…then I had to stop and think. Also thanks for the pic giving the reverse view of San Ignacio from the village. It was interesting to look at it from that vantage point, because we mainly saw it the other way around.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s