October 18, 2008

Another funeral

This past Monday, on the way into Itipini in the morning, we passed a hearse on the way out - always a bad sign. It turns out a 10-month old baby had died. I can’t say I have any particular memories of the child but I do know the mother fairly well - here she is in happier days.
It’s hard to know what exactly was responsible for the death of the child, other than a generalized failure to thrive. It is disheartening to know that I’ve been in Itipini long enough to see an entire cycle of life, from birth to death in one baby.

On Thursday, the family had the funeral and I drove many of them out to the graveyard for the funeral. Like the previous funeral I attended, it was an object lesson in just how common death is around here. There are plenty of empty graves just waiting to be filled. I had thought there wasn’t much that was sadder than a row of empty graves but now I know that an empty row of child-sized graves is pretty sad.

The coffin was so tiny.
Afterwards, they had the usual post-funeral feast - evidentially, the age of the deceased is not proportional (nor should it be) to the amount of food because they had a lot. And so in the midst of the trash and the dirty, tumble-down shacks of Itipini, with a thunderstorm approaching, we ate… and ate well.
Still, even that doesn’t cover the inescapable tragedy of the occasion.


Heidi said...

The row of child-sized graves really struck me... people living with the expectation that children will die! I know this is so common in so much of the world, but it is humbling to realize how far it is from Bolingbrook.

Border Explorer said...

Jesse, I found this blog on World MDG Blogging Day. I think it is going to be my favorite blog. This post is stunning in the reality it conveys. Thank you so much for your presence in Mthatha and for sharing it here with us.