Thursday, April 23, 2009

Failure 2

Saul came to the house about 5:15 am to ask if I could take him to the hospital to retrieve the body of his wife. We left immediately, but (as is typical in Malawi) had to wait for the fuel station to open…

We got to the hospital at about 6:15 am, this is when I realized that the mourners hadn’t finished, but moved. Earlier that morning I thought it became eerily silent because the mourners had run our of energy to cry. I was wrong. The people had left the village, taken the 10 mile walk to the hospital to be near Failure. The wailing and crying continued through the night and continued still.

One of Failure’s daughters was crying the most. Screaming in Chichewa… the only words I could understand were “Mom” and “God.” It was too much for Saul to take. It was the first time I’ve seen a Malawian man cry.

We loaded Failure's body into the back of the Landcruiser and headed back to the village. Her family members packed in as well. The mourning continued all the way back to the village. 10 miles seemed like 100 as I tried to drive slow to miss all the bumps, so as not to disturb Failure.

As we pulled up to Saul’s hut, a large crowd had gathered. They were distraught with grief. People were hitting and kicking the side of the car and crying... It seemed like they believed in their emotional state that if they could just make me turn around and leave, death would go with me. I have never seen mourning like this. Wailing, crying, shouting, singing, hitting the ground, the car… How they all must have loved her!

It was time to move her to the hut. The back liftgate was jammed again... I was thinking, "What will I do if I can't open this!!!" 2 minutes later I got it open.

When we were carrying her into her house one of her daughters was trying to wake Failure up, shaking her and screaming. Saul, barely able to stand with grief and tears, and others had to hold his daughter back so we could get the body in the house.

After this I got in the car and drove back to the house, which is only about 150 yards away. I sat in the car for a while trying to process all that had just happened. I just don't get it.

Why are there no doctors here?
Why do 16,000 kids die of hunger related causes every day?
Why do 1 in 5 kids die by age 4 here?
Why do 1 in 16 die in childbirth here?
Why is Malaria killing millions per year, when the cost to prevent it is pennies to us?

The answer is, we don’t really care. Of course, that is a huge generalization, but as a whole I think it is correct.

Statistics mean little until you see the faces.

I still feel like I am the failure here. We all are. You and I are responsible for her death and the death of millions per day. I’m sure many will read this and be upset. Some might even cry. This may sound harsh, but the tears of the rich don’t save lives! In fact, Africans are drowning in the tears of the rich! If this makes you angry with me, I'm sorry, but I hope the anger will turn to compassion for the poor and that you'll move past feelings of sorrow into actions of love.

I know this may sound self-righteous for me to write. But I share the guilt. Even worse, I have been a witness to the horror of extreme poverty and still have returned home a selfish, wasteful person several times... I pray that this time I don't forget. That this time I come home and spend my time and money wisely. That this time, I move beyond drowning Malawi with my tears, but find ways to make them float. That this time I can inspire people to use what God has blessed them with to bless others...

They are still wailing next door. I am going to help buy a coffin now and try to understand what in the world is going on here. Funeral is later today. We will bury another statistic.

Shane Mast

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