August 18, 2010
Thoughts on a Funeral
Hello all, this is Ken. Usually my lovely bride Christie is exclusively your guide into the lives of the Hagermans in Paraguay. Today, however, I wanted to share a little. I have said in the past that God is too good to us--all of us. I have said many times since moving here that HE is too good to ME. I have even said that I don’t deserve Him or what He does. Today, He reminded me of how good I have had it.
It is a Tuesday, which by all accounts is nothing particularly special. Monday is lamented by almost all, and Friday equally is adored by all. Wednesday is hailed as “hump day” meaning almost to the weekend. Thursday is “one day closer” and do I really have to cover Saturday and Sunday? This plain old common, brown-paper-wrapped Tuesday, I went to a funeral.
The wife of a friend of mine died. The lady was only 49 years old. She had high blood pressure for years, and the other day she suffered either a stroke or an aneurism. This lady was what they call here evangelical (meaning, not Catholic) and had a more traditional style home-going than the Paraguayan funerals Christie has described in other posts. We arrived early to the family’s home, where the body waited. The home was conveniently located next-door to the church where the memorial service was to be held. Both places looked vacant so we went one house down to a greet a Saúl's friend, who happens to be a pastor.
NOTE: God reminded me of His grace here. This pastor shared a story of when one of his children was a baby, sick to the point of death. They took the child to the hospital and the doctor sent him to a pharmacy for an injection that would hopefully revive the dying baby. The father went and found that the price was 20,000 guaranies. He told us his heart was shattered because he spent his last guarani (of borrowed money) buying bus fare to get to the hospital. Now he was faced with losing his child because he didn’t have $3 to buy the meds. He spoke and I could see tears forming in his eyes from remembering this near-tragedy. Through the grace of God (the man’s words), the doctor called the pharmacist while he was there, and the pharmacist hung up the phone and handed him a bag with the necessary medications. I have never had to depend on God for the life of one of my children like that, nor have I been in an economic state where we have been with out basic needs met. GOD is TOO good to me, I don’t deserve it.
After the story we walked back to the house, where a few people were gathering, but the husband of the deceased was still nowhere to be found. We greeted and waited and drank a little terere. After some time Saúl asked around for the husband, and someone told us he was preparing the grave. Here they don’t embalm like we do and usually they bury the following day. In this case, the lady died late yesterday afternoon and was being buried today. We decided to go be with the husband there at the cemetery.
NOTE: God reminded me of His grace here. I was so not prepared for what I saw next. This fellow is a construction foreman by trade. Here that means a brick mason. He was in his work clothes with tools in hand, and was actually laying the bricks to build the tomb for his wife’s coffin to be placed in. He was cutting brick with a saw when we arrived. My heart broke and continued to break watching this man work. He is a perfectionist usually and today even more so. He worked diligently without stopping while wiping the tears from his eyes. At one point in smoothing the concrete top he had to lean away to finish because his tears were making marks in the wet cement. We were privileged to mix concrete and help him build the rebar to finish this task.
As soon as it was done, we went back to the house. The ceremony was on hold until the husband arrived to say there was a place ready at the cemetery. He showered quickly and then they proceeded. He asked us if we would act as pallbearers.
NOTE: God reminded me of His grace here. After the service, in the rush of people getting in buses and trucks to go to the grave, one of the pallbearers was lost. My friend--always a servant--grabbed a handle on the side of the coffin and helped us carry his wife to the car. When we arrived, he helped carry her to the grave site. After a few words there he sealed the tomb with brick and that was that--for us. This tomb was finished to perfection inside but there was not sufficient time to finish the outside. A lot of people hire this work out and so later in the week workmen come out to put the stucco layer on and paint it. Since my friend built this himself, he will be back to finish it out.
Surviving this woman are her husband and two children, a boy of 11 and a girl of 18 years. I am so blessed today to have experienced this second-hand and not first-hand. So many times we thank God for getting us through the tough times and never stop to think about the times HE has saved us from what never happened. His grace is sufficient for me.