A child died.
He got sick so fast. We took him to two different hospitals. He fought for a week. His heart stopped and the doctors couldn’t get it started again.
The rains came the day he died. They were late. I was wondering when they would come and how much longer the farmers could hold out.
I led the other children in song for forty-five minutes while the staff was told. I shut my heart down. I tried to invite enough noise so the grief of our staff wouldn’t reach us before it was time.
I sat with his house-brothers while they were told by their mama. Mama said, “Let me tell you a story. Some stories are happy and some are sad. This one is very sad. What’s the saddest thing you can think of?”
Peter said, “If my mom were to go away and never come back.”
Ishmael said, “If my brother were to die.”
Mama said, “Yes, death is the saddest thing for us to think about. Remember our brother? Remember we were on our knees last night praying for him to recover? Jesus decided that he needed him home. He is no more.”
Silence. Confusion. We sat in our bubbles of static in a dark living room until we heard the wailing begin in other houses. The cries mixed with the whistle of the rising wind. Mama stood and went to his room to cry over his loss and his things. It began to rain. I ran from house to house and hugged every child, every mama. I said nothing.
For a ten days the rains came with a vengeance. No use to anyone, big splats of angry tears from the sky that beat the crops and the earth. I thought the most horrible things. I felt like a monster. Why does grief do that?
We buried him.
The kids walked by his casket in a single-file line. The sun glared off of the clear viewing panel making it hard to discern his features. It didn’t look like him. He wasn’t there.
There were special seats for guests of honor, but I sat with the kids. I couldn’t get to them all. The chair rows were too close together. I watched them cry, helplessly, holding onto the ones near me. I cried. I couldn’t hold 70 kids on my lap, anyway.
It began to rain. Gentle now, long rains all afternoon. I sat on my porch and cried to God. Nothing to ask, nothing to praise, nothing sophisticated. “I’m so sad, God. I’m so sad.”
The Spirit answered, “I know you are sad; but I’m so happy he’s with me.”