I was met at the back of the bare concrete block church by a sea of lime green shirts. Our fishermen and the women in our women's group all had on their New Vision Ministry T-shirts and black jeans we had helped them get. They were also all wearing white latex gloves Roger had found in our medical supply box at the fish house. It made them look strangely official. They were all serving as ushers. In the front of the church was Marcus' coffin...draped with his lime green T-shirt.
I was called in the middle of the night to tell me Marcus had had a stroke. Stephen and Autumn took him to the hospital where he died the next morning not long after I visited. He was one of our guys. He left behind two precious girls and a wife.
I gave the family strong encouragement to immediately take the body to the public morgue in St. Marc. I told them I would help with the funeral but I would not cover the cost of a private morgue. I thought they took my advice.
Two days later the family comes to me to say that a private morgue picked up the body from the hospital and had assured them they would do the funeral for cheap. Now the director of the funeral home was demanding $20,000 Haitian or about $2500 usd for the funeral. This was from a family worth about $200.
I helped the family with the money I would have paid for the simple funeral and then bought Marcus's bwafouye (canoe) from the family to do a memorial for him at the fish house. The family continued to come to plead for more money for two weeks while they sold everything they owned and borrowed money from everyone they could find to pay the morgue. I hate that system.
Finally they got $15,000 Haitian and the funeral home agreed to bury him. That is where the funeral picked up. They had a big wake the night before in which everyone present gets to drink and party at the expense of the mourning family. If the crowd feels the family did not produce enough liquor, beer, and sodas, the crowd starts throwing rocks at the family and the house. It is a very stressful time for an already stressed out family.
The funeral service was preached by a Christian pastor to an uninterested crowd. Everyone just stood and talked until he finished at which time the funeral home workers came forward to get the coffin. That is when the show began. Before anyone touched anything all of our women and guys posed in front of the coffin for a picture with their official uniforms.
As soon as the coffin was touched, dozens of women began to scream at the top of their lungs and wail. Four of our girls took the T-shirt off of the coffin and carried it one at each corner at the front of the funeral procession right behind the marching band as we went down the road in the pouring rain.
The procession lasted about half an hour until we reached the family's house. The criers cried and screamed the whole way. But now they turned it up a notch. Women began falling onto the ground and rolling in the mud screaming. One girl in particular kicked and screamed so much that the funeral officials who are responsible for getting them could not pick her up. She hit and kicked until she finally rolled off of the mud path into the water filled ditch in her best white dress. I don't understand all of that but everyone else acted like it was normal and since I was the non-Haitian in the whole processional I acted like I was used to it too.
We finally got to the tomb that had been the tomb in which Marcus' mom, aunt, and cousin were buried. They just pushed the remains of the old coffins to the side and shoved him in. Then a mason was there and ready to seal it up.
All of our group was then gathered together for a photo in front of the tomb with their matching shirts. My first group photo at a burial site.
We then visited the widow as she sat in the floor of the family mud house and each one of us passed through and kissed her. Everyone then was offered one more beer and it was over. All the crying and screaming ended as soon as the coffin was in the tomb.
It was so evident that our women and the fishermen were in a position of respect just because they were part of our group and had a T-shirt. They had a whole new self esteem. I can't wait to see how they respond when they realize they are a part of the family of the one true God.