Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Grief Observed.

Yesterday morning I heard wailing coming from the clinic, and I knew. I knew from the strength of the piercing cries and the intensity of their sound that it had to be about the boy. The little cherub that I had prayed for the night before --the tiny toddler with pneumonia-- must have died.

He was very sick, struggling for every breath. We had put him on oxygen until we ran out of fuel to run the machine. But even when he was on it, he struggled.

His mother had come two days before, got medicine, and was told to return the next morning bright and early. Instead she stayed home, only coming late that night once the convulsions started.

She was frantic, wanting to take him to the witch doctor since our medicines were not working as fast as she liked.

Dr. Tom was not sure he’d make it through the night. But he did.

However by sunrise the shallow rasps coming from his chest finally stopped. He was dead.

When Tom pronounced him, the mother let out a guttural shriek that carried some distance in the dawn silence. It shook me from my bed.

When I arrived to check on another patient a few minutes later, I found her still shrieking and wailing sharply every few seconds. She punctuated her grief by throwing herself again and again on the ground --arms flailing --feet pounding.

Her family and friends sat quietly by and watched. Silenced by her grief, they did nothing to calm her.

Each wail eventually faded to a sob, then slowly she would stand again. Once standing, she would start to pace which eventually led to another wail more pitiful than the one before; and she would throw herself to the ground. Pounding. Stomping. Beating.

No one approached. No one comforted. No one joined in.

It was a difficult grief to watch --too fresh --too real. But eventually there were no more screeches to be uttered, and she quieted to a steady sob, prostrated in the dirt.

Only then did her family gather her up from the dust and walk her home. A friend followed with her child wrapped tightly in his arms.

The wails may have stopped, but the grief was just beginning. Please pray for her. I don’t know her name. But God does. Thanks.