Monday, July 5, 2010

the entangled pair

Where there is life there is death. This is an obvious concept which some choose to see as a paradox. Some societies try what they may to segregate the two, keeping death out of sight, smell, and touch. Other societies carry on not attempting to conceal the intricate connection between the two, either by choice or by lack of alternative.

Louise, one of the few literate members of the church community in Kolet, gave birth to her sixth, two days ago. The grandmothers chose the baby´s name.

Bethlev’s mother and father buried their 11 year old son a week and a half ago, and yesterday buried another. A month earlier they were the two Rose, feared suffered most of starvation from the family. Their teeth and jaw bones were the most protruding; their cheeks were the most meager. The first death occurred suddenly. The eleven-year-old’s temperature rose rapidly, by the time the mother found a way to reach the nearest nurse the advice was to get him to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. Upon arriving to the hospital, not a doctor could be found. The child died waiting. Since the boy died in the hospital the mother was not permitted to take her son’s body home to bury. The corpse needed to be left in the morgue, which meant paying money they did not have for a service they did not receive and another they did not want.

The father, prior to the boy’s illness, lacked health himself and thus the income of the family starved alongside the members. The payment of the morgue and the transportation to the hospital meant more money taken away from the little needed to feed the remaining family. A week and a half later, their eldest, a boy of 16, died in the same manner. This time there was no money for the transportation to the hospital. The extra expense failed to save the other, nor did it help those still alive.

The house the family, who used to be of seven, resides in is smaller than the room Jara and I use. They divided it in two. Yesterday, as neighbors, family, and friends gathered outside the house Rose walked into the first of the two rooms where she found her friend, the mother, holding a wooden post with both hands, swaying her body side to side, eyes blank, searching for nothing. In the neighboring room the body lay. Alongside the corpse sat his siblings, one of whom, Bethlev, the seven-year-old girl with a leg and foot impediment, with a rising fever.

The cycle continues.

On our way to visit the mourning family we passed by to visit two families, celebrating the three new lives received in Kolet. The mother of the newborn twins lay on her side with one of the babe’s suckling fervently on her breast while the mother trembled with her eyes rolling back, seemingly coming in and out of consciousness. The grandmother tended to the other infant while calmly explaining that her daughter’s fever had not descended in three days. The doctor prescribed medicine. “What medicine?” Jara questioned. No one knew. “What does she have? What did the doctor say?” No one knew, no one asked. Here a visit to the hospital consists of sitting in front of the doctor, allowing him or her to inspect you, taking some tests not knowing and not asking which ones, and receiving a prescription before receiving the results of the exams- of course, paying for all the procedures.

“The breast milk,” Jara cried, “she’s drugging them with whatever she’s taking.” “If they don’t drink that, then what Jara? What else are they going to survive off of?”

“Bethlev has a fever. The disease, if it is a disease, could be infecting all of the family. They all need to be checked. They need an autopsy.” “Jara autopsies don’t exist here. Using money on a corpse that could be feeding those alive? With what money are they going to be examined Jara?”

“We can pay for the exams.” “There are some who already believe that the family is being cursed because they have received so much attention from the white foreigners since Bethlev’s leg operation was covered by us. The family may see this as a punishment from God or a curse from jealous others.”

The cycles continue.

The boy was buried yesterday evening. A nurse visited the two younger siblings today do some testing.

The twins’ legs tucked in and out, both new lives apparently full of health.

Louise’s baby wore a pink bonnet held together by a pin.

With you through these cycles,


  1. amen hermana.

    about a week ago, I was sitting in mass when I see a raven flying in circles. it looked clumsy and almost a bit tipsy.
    all of the sudden there was a white bird that began flying alongside it.
    suddenly it transformed from the stumblings of a drunk to a beautiful dance. a choreography.

    The only thing I thought of was that, just as the birds, death doesn't make sense without life. and visa versa.

    te amo.

  2. My heart cries with you at the same time it delights in new life. I am doing what I can but I keep asking the Lord, "What else can I do?" Life goes on around here, we are concerned with our tiny problems. Know that I pray for you and for the ones you care for. May the holy Spirit be with you.