When I signed up to come to Honduras I had no idea what was ahead of me. I didn’t anticipate the struggles and hard times that were to come. I didn’t envision myself developing such a passionate love for a people group so different from my own. However, God was calling me to be the light to a dark world. So I booked a ticket and climbed onto a plane that would take me into the unknown. I came here prepared to serve God’s people. He calls us to do for the least of these and I was geared up to do just that. However, I shamefully admit that I recently failed at that task. One of our guards (Santos) had been sick for about 3 weeks with stomach pains. He hadn’t been coming into work because it was so bad. Well last Saturday while the Grand Central group was here one of the nurses in the group went over with me to give him some medicine. In my broken Spanish I attempted to explain to him when to take which pill and how many times a day. I then asked questions about how he felt and all that. As we were leaving Thea (the nurse) explained to me what she thought the problem was and how bad it truly could be. Promising to come back to check on him and bring his family food we left. That day and the next were crazy busy and I didn’t make it back over to their home to check on him. Monday morning came around and at about 4 a.m. I found myself being awaken by Jen as she informed me that Santos had passed away during the night. Her presence was being requested at the hospital to see what needed to be done with his body. He had gotten worse and had gone to the hospital the day before but they hadn’t been able to do anything for him. Climbing out of bed I offered to ride along and seeing the relief that came across her face at those words I quickly prepared to leave. I was barely able to suppress the guilt and tears that had suddenly engulfed my body.
Grabbing my stuff I joined Jen, our pastor, and a couple of local men whom are friends of ours in the trip to the hospital. The drive to the city has never felt as long in my entire life. As we all sat consumed with our own thoughts and grief nobody could seem to find words to speak. It was surreal. As we reached the hospital gates the “long” ride suddenly felt way to short as I realized I was far from prepared for what lay ahead. However, ready or not I forced one foot in front of the other as I followed the men through the front gates of the hospital. Walking with a sense of confidence and strength they seemed to know exactly where to go. As we went down a set of stairs and followed a long hallway I could hear the wails of a women in pain. The farther we walked the louder the wails became. I can remember thinking to myself that someone should help the lady by giving her medicine or something. I thought she was one of the patients there and expected to eventually pass a doorway that would lead to the room that she was being treated in. However, as we rounded the corner the cries grew louder and then suddenly there she was. The wails were not of a women who was in physical pain but instead were the wails of Santos’s sweet sweet wife as her body was gripped with an emotional pain like none I have ever known.
I think that now would be a great time to mention that they do death here completely different than they do in the states. Where we place the bodies of our dead in separate rooms where the family may grieve separately they simply had rolled their dead out into a hallway by one of the main entrances of the hospital. He was still on the metal bed that he had been on while they were working on him. He still had tubes in his nose and an IV in his arm. They had simply rolled him into the hallway and covered him with a sheet. He was left there for the world to gawk at as they went by. As we approached I could see 2 beds lined up along the wall…both holding the bodies of those that had passed in the past few hours. The men immediately jumped into action and went to find out what was needed. All I could do was stand numb from the sights before me. 2 gurneys holding 2 men whom would never see another day with their loved ones. A wife half laying on top of her husband’s body crying out for God’s help and howling uncontrollably as she for the first time had to figure out how to do life without the love of her life. I will never forget the sound of her voice as she cried out God Help Me and I will certainly never get the sound of those wails out of my mind. It was the sound of a heart breaking…It was the sound of part of her dying there right beside her soul mate. Slowly I approached her and wrapped my arms around her in an attempt to pour out every ounce of strength that I could find. As Jen moved forward to do the same I retreated for my own moments of break down. As I stood sobbing I couldn’t help but think I should have done something…anything. More than likely I wouldn’t have been able to save his life. However, God called me here to try. He called me here to do the best I could for HIS people. I should have been there to at least offer the family a peace of mind that we did indeed care dearly about their father/husband. I should have been there to allow him a sense of peace that no matter what happened we would be here to help his family through it. Instead for whatever reason…be it my fear of the communication barrier, my busy schedule, or my American mentality that something like this wouldn’t happen because people don’t die from this…whatever the reason…I did nothing. I would like to think that I would have gone first thing Monday after Jen returned home but I will never get a chance to see. I waited too long. We stayed at the hospital for a couple of hours offering any help we could. The entire time we were there the other man was never visited. As he lay there dead and alone I couldn’t help but grieve for him and the fact that he didn’t have any sweet wife there missing him. Then in an act of complete disrespect and morbidity a lady walked over to the body, pulled back the sheet, and stared down at a man he didn’t she didn’t even know…simply to feed her own curiosity. She then covered him back up and was on her way. However, before she covered him I had seconds to stare into the face of a man who had very clearly been mangled in an accident of some sort. Those few seconds were just enough to add to the list of things that would forever be scarred into my mind.
Shortly after we were asked to go back to Santa Ana, break the news to the children, and bring them back into the city to meet up with their family. Not an easy task I can assure you. One of the guys with us sat the kids down and gently explained what had happened. Then all together we headed back to the city. Only this time we went to the home where Santos would be placed. Again they do things much different here. Instead of taking the body to a funeral home to be embalmed and prepared for a funeral they simply place them into a box and place them in their home. They have a 24 hour period of “watching” the body. Someone stays awake with the body for the entire 24 hours. The body is never left alone and throughout the time people can come and go for a “viewing.” We took the kids to the home where he would be placed and joined in as they began to clean and prepare for the arrival of the body. They brought in their table as well as the neighbors table and placed them together so that it would be big enough to hold the casket. Someone else donated these beautiful white cloths that were then hung on the walls and draped from the ceiling in an attempt to make a place for the viewing. While that was going on someone else was picking fresh flowers from a field and pinning them to the cloth backdrop and placing others in plastic bottles to lay around the foot of the casket. Still others were there from the community to donate their chairs to be lined along the wall for people to sit in. It was a beautiful sight of people coming together to do what they could. They may not have much but what they have they are willing to share and give in times of need. I wish you could have been there to see them form into the most real body of Christ I have ever seen. One was certainly being the hand while another functioned as a foot. However, the thing that moved me the most was watching the children. Santos has 4 children ranging from 4-14 and they jumped right in to help. The one that got to me the most was his 13 year old daughter Fanny. Her autopilot had kicked in and she was sweeping, washing, and serving in every way she knew how. Now I have to tell you that my autopilot had kicked in as well earlier that morning and I was still finding it hard to function. I also came to realize that my autopilot doesn’t come equipped with Spanish! Things that I have heard and understood a million times fell on deaf ears this time as I couldn’t seem to bring myself to focus on and translate what was being said to me. So how this little one so quickly and affectively switched to autopilot I will never know. Jen and I stayed until the casket was brought in and Santos and been placed in his spot of honor for the next 24 hours. We then hugged the family and slipped away to give them time to grieve.
As I sit here retelling this story I find that my mind is reliving it all over again. Though it is a story I hope I never forget I'm having a hard time reliving it again so soon. So for now I'm going to allow you all to read this part. I will continue the story later today.