Monday, June 25, 2007


As promised I will finish the Santos blog that I started this time last week. I apologize that it has taken me this long to return to it. However, not only was it a very hard experience to process and put into words but also it has been a crazy busy week.
So at long last here is the much awaited story. As you all know from my previous post death here is done much differently than in the states. Monday’s experiences were just a brief glimpse of that. Tuesday morning Jen and I got up and got ready to head back to be with the family. We were not only attending the funeral but would be donating our services in any way that was needed. Once we had gotten ourselves in the car we headed to pick up a “few” others from our community that were wanting to come as well to pay their respects. However, when we pulled up to the spot where we were meeting them we found that “a few” was an understatement…there were about 12 or 13 others waiting there to ride with us. Without even batting an eye they did what I’m becoming accustom to calling the “Honduran way”….they packed into the van until there was barely any breathing room. Finally situated we headed back into the city. We arrived at the house around 1 and almost immediately Jen was asked to go with a couple of the guys to see about getting papers that were needed for the burial. Jen immediately looked to me to make sure that I would be fine by myself for awhile. Seeing my nod of assurance she quickly followed the men out the door to do what needed done. As I watched Jen climb back up the hill to the car it finally hit me that I was not only sitting grieving the loss of a great man but I was doing so completely surrounded by Honduran men and women. All of whom didn’t speak my language and whose language I definitely am not yet fluent at. However, in those 30 + minutes I spent waiting on Jen to return I watched men, women, and children grieve over the loss of one of the greatest Honduran men any of us has ever had the privilege of knowing. It was then that it hit me that it doesn’t matter what country you are in or how they choose to handle the death of their loved ones within that country. The heart of the matter is still the same….that no matter where we are we are all connected by that same feeling of grief. I stood, sat, and knelt beside dozens of tear stained Honduran faces that day as I too wept in sorrow. I held hands and offered/received hugs as we all leaned on one another for strength and support. It was in those moments that I realized that the truly important things in life are those things that span across all nations….grief, love, joy, sorrow, laughter, etc. They are the things that need no translation for they are not heard by the ear but felt with the heart. Eventually Jen found her way back to the house and she too joined me in the process of grief. As time inched forward the next moments were ones that will live in my memory forever. Thinking that they may enjoy pictures of the day I offered to take a few for the family. They not only graciously accepted my offer to take pictures of the decorations and such but also asked if I would take pictures down in the casket. If I had felt morbid taking pictures to begin with I was definitely feeling it then. However, I wondered if this was possibly the only photo they would ever have of their dad/husband. The entire day was filled with reminders of how privileged we are. The day was full of kicks in the pants that made me yet again want to see all I have and live off of nothing. We sit with books full of pictures of our loved ones while they get their first chance at a photo during the funeral services. We spend hundreds on a casket that’s only purpose is to hold our dead bodies while they place their dead in simple boxes. I don’t know about you but when I die I hope someone makes me a simple box and lays me to rest in it. If we would cut the cost of our funerals in half we could make a huge dent in the hunger problem that exists in our world. The next picture I took was of a cross that had been placed in the corner sometime in the night. It held a simple plaque that read Santos Maradiaga Nacio 6-11-1967 Murio 18-06-2007. I would still like to know who made the cross and who spent the time to write and draw on the plaque. I can remember thinking only one thing… “What a labor of love.” I stood back staring at the spot we had decorated the day before in preparation for the hours that had now passed. The flowers had wilted and died. The cloth was starting to sag. Candles that had been placed around the casket had long since melted wax all over the floor. However, never in my life have I have see a more beautiful display of affection and care taken for the viewing of a loved one. Finally, it was time to head to the burial spot. Jen left a few minutes ahead of me so that she could go get the truck. Our truck would be serving as the hearse for the day and she was to be the driver. Then as I made my way to the door Santos’s youngest daughter suddenly reached her little arms out to me and began to sob. For some reason her little mind had decided she wanted with me and only me. Swinging her up on my hip I did my best to shift her into a comfortable position that was conducive both for comforting as well as walking. I then joined the “procession” out the door of the house. Know how we drive from the funeral home to the graveyard. Well the cars that usually carry us were replaced with the feet of those weary grief stricken people who had spent the entire night awake watching over the body. For the first time in my entire life I had the desire to run for a bowl of water so that I could sit and wash each set of feet that marched before, after, and all around me. I stood watching each person follow the small foot path that cut its way back and forth up the mountain where Santos was to rest. We aren’t talking a small slop but a rocky, sewage and liter filled mountain! Let’s just say I also learned a lesson in wearing shoes that were sensible…not fashionable. Gone forever is the notion that my shoes need to match my outfit. Instead I will be picking my shoes according to rational! Without thinking of what was to come I had simply slipped on a pair of sandals that morning because they were “comfortable.” Gone was the comfort as I attempted to balance a purse of one hip and a child on the other. Gone was comfortable as I sloshed through water/sewage. Gone was comfort as I found myself being swarmed by fire ants whose bites leave your feet feeling on fire! However, on I marched…there was no stopping. We walked through the "graveyard" on our quest. It was just the side of a mountain where they had quite literally dug up every spot they could to bury their dead. All of which were marked by a simple cross and lined with rocks. If I had thought that in the house was hard to watch the graveside was even worse. As Santos’s wife realized this was truly her last goodbye the wails returned. Only this time along with that wailing came fainting. Then I watched as they wrapped rope around the casket as their “mechanical” way of lowering the casket into its new resting place. Finally, came the worst part…the men took turns using the two shovels to throw dirt down onto the casket. I say to you all….be glad that when it is our loved ones someone comes behind you after you are gone to do this process. There is something final in that thunk thunk thunk sound. Something that resonates deep in your being. The thing I found most odd about this whole experience was the fact that before leaving the house someone had scrapped up the candles, the melted wax, the dead flowers, and anything else that had been around the casket and placed it in a bag. Then when the casket was half covered they threw all of that stuff down in the hole before returning to the covering process. Then as the cross was placed, flowers were laid on top, and the family knelt to say their goodbyes my heart broke even more for this poor family. I felt as though all of Honduras should be feeling the loss of one of their finest. As the service came to a close I was shocked and amazed as I watched the mother compose herself the best she could and walk away with strength that surprised us all. She walked up to the truck and informed everyone she would be sitting in the back with her children. There was yet one more difference that struck me between here and home. Where as at home people would have baked, cooked, and provided them with the food they would need to see them through this we simply decided to take them out to eat. Jen and I piled them all back into the van ....this time there were 20 of us....and headed for the requested pizza hut. We took all of them in and sat with them for an hour or two as they learned to laugh, play, and live a little bit again. It was good to see them out together giggling and sharing in the joys of life. As I looked into each of their faces I was reminded of why exactly I was here and just what it was that made me fall in love with these people. Communication might be a bit of a challenge at times but when it came down to it we connected in the way that matter....the heart. Please continue to pray for this family as they begin to walk through this period of grief. They now must learn what it means to do life with out a daddy or a husband. I wish you all could have met this sweet sweet man who touched my heart in so many ways. He was some good stuff and will always be remembered.

1 comment:

Heather Riggar said...

Ashley, everytime I read your blogs I am brought to tears. It is amazing to hear how God is working all over the world. God is so good! I love being able to share in your experience through your blogs even when we are thousands of miles apart. I think of you and pray for you often. Keep doing Gods work! :)