Monday, August 13, 2012

Irma's funeral today

Today has been a very emotionally wrenching day.........Dwight, Gloria , Susie and I went to the funeral in Tierra Linda for little Irma. 
Getting to the house is very difficult , especially because it had rained very hard the day before.  We had to climb down a steep, very muddy, slippery path...with a big drop off on the not too far side. 
When we got to the house ....half of the village was there...the house and the small land in front of it was just a sea of people. 
We were taken into see the mother and father who were in their bedroom with their 9 children. ....the parents were overwhelmed with grief....all of the children were crying.  The younger ones were clinging to their parents for comfort but the parents looked liked they were too grief stricken and overwhelmed to be able to offer comfort to their children. 
It was heart wrenching just to see their pain.
We were then taken into the room that were the coffin was lying...there were a few wreaths of flowers but flowers are hard to come by in Tierra Linda so I was glad that we had brought some with us.  The room was full of people who were sitting vigil over the coffin. 
We realized that everyone had been waiting for us to arrive before the final prayers were said and the coffin was taken out of the house.  We were humbled by this honor . 
After the prayers , they brought out a photo of Irma with her previous sponsor...from several years ago.....Tricia who had given much love and joy to Irma....the framed photo was placed on the coffin.....Irma had been the first child sponsored in the family and it was very special to them. 
As is the custom here sometimes....the mother does not always accompany the child to the cemetery...the fear is that the child's soul will not want to leave the mother and will follow her back home. ....but in this case both the mother and father were too overcome emotionally to be able to accompany the coffin.  The siblings stayed back with the parents.  They had already been two nights without sleep and were just distraught. 
The parents and the siblings let out terrible cries when Irma's coffin was taken out of the house.  
As is the custom, the coffin was turned 4 times from each direction to make sure that the soul would not return back to the house.
Then the coffin was carried to the school where Irma had been a student.
There were hundreds of people there.
Everyone entered the school grounds, the director of the school started to talk but could not hold back the tears and someone else took over from him.
They invited all the children who had been friends with Irma to come to the coffin and say good bye to her.  Once again, the sponsor's framed photo with Irma was placed on top of the coffin.
Several children came up and talked about Irma and what she meant to them.
The procession then left the school and walked up to the small Catholic church at the top of the hill.   
The padre talked about how just on Friday he had given Irma classes to practice her dance with the children that she should have performed on Saturday in Solola. 
The church was full. 
Candles were lit, prayers were said. 

While I listened to the ceremony I could not help but think how Irma's death, while not a direct result of malnutrition was caused just as much by hunger and poverty.
The mother had told Gloria that she doesn't have a lot of food to feed her children. Sometimes the father has work but it is not steady....and they grow some crops but this does not bring them a lot of money.   They had 12 people to feed in the family and the money was just not enough.  So on Friday....the mother made a very thin soup of potatoes for the children to eat.
 I thought about how many children we work with who face hunger every day.  I thought about a mother who had recently had two of her children taken to an orphanage....she told me with tears in her eyes, that she didn't have a lot of food but she always had a least one egg that she would share between her four children. ...

On Friday, Irma like every day, came home from school, picked up the maize mixture to take to the molino to have the corn ground........and then brought home the ground corn to help her mother make tortillas.   Usually, every day after lunch, the mother and the children then walk down the mountain from Tierra Linda to Panajachel to work in the onion fields. ...then around 5.30p.m. they go home.   On Friday, Irma was very excited about being in the dance the following day and asked her mother could she please stay home to bathe and wash her hair.   (remember there is no hot water and washing her hair at night would mean that it would be wet all night)  .   The mother told her no, that she really needed her help in the onion fields. ...So off they went. 

The mother told us that they all ate radishes from the field.
They started walking home a little earlier ....around 4p.m. ..and on the climb up the mountain path is where Irma started to vomit. It would have been about a half an hour after eating the radishes.
Her mother said she only vomited 4 times and then started frothing green foam from her mouth. 
By the time the mother got her home, around 6p.m. she was already unable to speak ...they got her to the hospital around 8.p.m. and she died before midnight.

When Irma's coffin left the church.....approx. 200 people or more followed the coffin by foot.   It was carried first by young teenage girls from the church ..and then on the journey it was swapped over several times.    It was an incredible sight watching this small, white coffin going up the path and a sea of people going with it. 

We followed the procession in our car.  I was in awe of the dedication of the people who followed behind the coffin.  Women carrying babies on their back, small children by the hand, young people, old people...they all showed their respect and love by accompanying the coffin.  This was a 2 and half hour walk to get to the cemetery.
At the entrance to the village , the coffin bearers stopped once again and turned the coffin four times so that they soul would not be able to find its way back.  

Anyone who has been with us to Tierra Linda knows how steep the climb is up the mountain roads.  It was a long walk .
We had a Mayan Families pick up with us to be able to give a ride to the people who needed it. 
But it was quite some time before people took advantage of that.  One mother with her young daughter of about 8 made it half way on the journey before asking for a ride. 

Along the way, people came out of houses to bring an offering to give to the family....they would bring a quetzal or two 
   People all along the way came out to look at the procession and share in the grief of a family losing a child. 

When we were about half an hour from the cemetery it started raining.....but everyone kept on going ...some pulled out pieces of plastic covering they had brought with them and just kept on going.

By the time we got to the cemetery it was raining very heavy.

We left the procession at the cemetery...we had already been over four hours at the funeral and we were all tired and emotionally drained. 

Tomorrow we have the milk program..where children receive milk and/or cereal.    We have a female doctor coming who is going to give a talk about how to prepare food for children....and we will ask her to talk also about not eating foods that have not been washed and the dangers of pesticide. 

We are not sure what happened to Irma....we will never really know ...but we hope that it never happens to another child.

But hunger happens here every day. If you sponsor a child and can possibly afford to send a few dollars, no matter how will make such a difference to the family.

It would mean maybe that each child in the family has an egg rather than the mother dividing one egg between four children. 

If you don't sponsor a child but would like to help a family with food ...that would be very appreciated.

I want to thank the sponsors of the children in this family...and Tricia ..the previous sponsor...who have made it possible for the family to not  have to carry the extra burden of the costs of the funeral and have made it possible for them to have food for the coming weeks.

1 comment:

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