Friday, November 12, 2010

A rough couple of days...

The last few days have been so exhausting for me. I knew they would be physically, but we've had some unfortunate surprises that have added emotional stress, too. On Wednesday, Monte went to San Sal with a group of men from here and two large trucks to pick up a shipment that had arrived almost two weeks ago from the States. It had 18 crates of donated items for the school, the church, and the community. There are wheelchairs, clothing, bedding, baby items, toys, computers, and more. Due to some small glitches, they didn't arrive back in La Palma till 8:00 that night and we were able to get the crates offloaded from the trucks. We arranged a group of men to meet with us yesterday morning to begin the process of emptying the crates and sorting, storing, and distributing the items in them. We worked all morning yesterday doing that and everyone pitched in. The sun was out and was intense so we distributed waters frequently. Nathan became very skilled in using a cordless drill to remove screws from the crates and help disassemble them. Ruth was very helpful in both transporting items from the crates to the appropriate areas and also in taking photos of the process.
By the time lunch time arrived, we had the crates all emptied and were exhausted physically. Monte, Ruth, Nathan, Teresa, and I headed for a nearby restaurant to sit down and eat some lunch. After lunch we headed home and make a quick stop at a little ice cream store. While ordering, Monte's phone rang and he couldn't understand the person on the other end so he handed the phone to me. I said hello to them and that I was Lori and could I help them. On the other end I heard a crying woman who said, "MizLori MizLori" several times and proceeded to tell me that she was Andrea's grandma.
I immediately knew something was wrong and asked how Andrea was--she'd been in the hospital last week. Her crying grandma informed me she'd died that morning. I told her we'd be there as soon as we could as my own tears began to flow.
Our group met Andrea several years ago when it was discovered she had a congenital heart problem. There were many attempts to get surgery for her but the response was always that she was not a candidate and that her life would be short. She outlived the doctor's expectations and was always so sweet and happy. About two years ago our group was here and several of them took her to the beach and a nearby private pool as a sort of a "Make A Wish" for her and her family and she loved the day. We'd see her in town occasionally and sometimes her lips would have a bluish tint to them because her heart just wasn't pumping as good as it should have been, but she always had a sweet smile on her face. She turned 7 this past August.
We waited for Jose to arrive at the school and then he, Teresa, Ruth, and I headed out to visit. (Monte was teaching last night at church and needed to finish preparing his lesson.) We took mototaxis to her house--in an area that would easily have been over an hour's walk from town for us. I hugged and cried with both Andrea's mom and grandma and we even met Andrea's great-grandmother. Her mom was so sad to have lost her daughter but she said she knows that Andrea is no longer in pain and that she was blessed that God loaned her Andrea for 7 years.
The time after death is handled much differently here than in the States. The body is placed in a casket, often with a glass top, and placed in the home for everyone to come and see. So when we arrived, little Andrea had been dead less than 6 hours and was there in her home in a white casket. She was dressed in the fancy dress that her mom said she had picked out to wear to her kindergarten graduation which would have been next Tuesday. In her arm was a Barbie. There were four tall pillar candles burning around the casket. Families and friends here often take pictures of the dead while they are in their caskets and several were doing that when we arrived and as we sat there more did so. At one point, Andrea's brother (maybe 11 years old) walked up to the casket and looked down at her quietly. He stood there for a brief time, hand on the glass, and then turned and went back outside to play with his friends. At one point we watched Andrea's grandma turn on her cell phone so that it would give better lighting on Andrea for a family member to take a picture of her. Eventually a family member brought in an extension cord to hang a light above where her little body lay. This was Ruth's first time to experience how they handle death in El Salvador and I know it was very difficult for her but she handled it very well. Last night would have been the "vela" where family and friends come and gone throughout the night, with Andrea's family feeding the crowds that arrived. Because of the distance and our exhaustion from the morning, we were not able to go to that. But Andrea's grandma asked me if I'd accompany them today to the burial and I of course agreed.
Jose offered to loan chairs from the church but Andrea's mom said the mayor's office was sending out a tent and chairs. By the time we decided we needed to head back to La Palma, the mayor's truck was arriving and they told us we could ride back with them, saving the cost of a mototaxi.
Today will be the funeral for Andrea. It will be around 1:30 and then around 2:00 will start the procession to the cemetery. The custom here is that the casket in the back of the funeral truck will lead the procession. There may be some cars to follow it, but most people will walk behind the funeral truck the distance to the cemetery. The church where they will have the funeral is on the outer edges of La Palma so it will be close to a 2 mile walk, I'd estimate. It will be a demanding experience, physically and emotionally, but we will be there.
Please be praying for Andrea's family as they deal with the emptiness and loss of her. We will do our best to minister to them in the coming days. Please pray that God will show us what we can do to best accomplish this.


Donna said...

We are praying for Andrea's family and for you as you serve them during this painful time.

The Griffiths

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