I still feel raw as I write this.
It knows no strangers and reaches across any cultural boundary touching everyone. If you have loved you have grieved. I have been grieving the past few days, but especially today. Madina is a young muslim mama who has worked for us on Saturdays for as long as we’ve been here, with the exception of this past month. I heard her little one, Mugisha, was in the hospital. I assumed like most that he had gone and was home again. A few days later I was shocked to learn he was still there. So I took Olivia with me and we went to see her at Kiwoko Hospital. He was very sick with malaria. He’d been there for 4 nights already and the treatment didn’t seem to be doing a thing for him. It was hard to see him so restless and clearly ill. His legs were swollen from the hips down, his body was burning up and his face looked different. We held him, prayed for him and his mama and I left with a heavy heart.
The next day I went back a little more prepared. Her milk had dried up so I brought fennel oil to help. Since Mugisha was only 9 months, he still needed his mama’s milk. I brought bananas and some oral rehydration mix so he would gain some energy. In Uganda, even though you are in a hospital, almost nothing is provided. Mama’s bring mats and sleep on the hard floor by their baby’s beds. Food is brought by a family member if it is brought at all. If you want sheets on the bed, you’d better bring your own. They did have a pitcher of water, but even cups and bowls Madina had to bring from home during their stay. I wanted her to know the love of Jesus in very tangible ways, He is our provider and He cares for us personally. I was pleasantly surprised to find him resting, his swelling seemed to have gone down in his legs and his fever was much better. He had been given a second treatment for malaria and he seemed to be responding this time. I prayed again with her for Mugisha and left with hope that he was going to be just fine. He had turned the corner. I was even more relieved to learn they had been sent home on Saturday. Then we were out of town for the weekend.
Sunday I received two phone calls that Mugisha had died early Sunday morning. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that. He was improving. I had seen it with my own eyes. All I could picture was him sitting on the rug in our living room, babbling and playing with Trig’s toys. In my mind’s eye, all I could see was him crawling in our house and playing and talking happily to Trig and Taylor’s voice in my head saying how much he liked to hold and play with Mugisha. This baby with the sweetest disposition, chocolate brown eyes and the softest fuzzy hair and lips that just draw your eyes and the gentlest of cries…he couldn’t be gone. I just couldn’t believe it. It couldn’t be true.
Today, I have seen with my own eyes the grief in the eyes of his mama. The burial was yesterday and I was not around to be there. But today I have seen. In Uganda, a burial lasts for many days as the family waits to grieve with all the family members. Depending on how far a member has to travel to attend, that’s how long they all wait until the burial is over. It lasts usually 2-3 days. I learned a lot today. My emotions were raw. I drove up and all the men were on one side of the road in their traditional muslim garments, praying. We were directed to the women who were across the street and a few houses down.
All the women sat together on a tarp on the dirt, the children in one area, the mamas in another. I was struck by the cruelty and brutality of grief. Madina was surrounded by babies, but her own baby was gone. Babies were playing, crying, sleeping, nursing…her baby was in the ground. I know that he is in heaven, but I don’t know what she thinks.
Her heart cries out for the life of her little one, and her body cries out. She was still a nursing mama with the cries of babies needing comfort all around her. Her heart and her breast, aching for her little one. Grief so profound. I looked into her eyes and told her I was sorry. I could hardly speak. I told her she had loved little Mugisha well. It was true. She had been a good mama. I cried with her, and her mama too. I looked at the sky and prayed for her to know the love of Jesus and the hope He gives. Tears trickled down my cheeks and I know people were watching. I was the only muzungu on that blue tarp. I pray she knows just how much Jesus loves her, that He grieves with her, that He does give life and He does take it away…how can that be, but it is…and He is good, even in the midst of pain and grief. I grieved with her, sat with her, cried with her, longed in my heart with her. I know it meant a lot that I would come. Coming and doing life together, the celebrating and the grieving, is a very essential part of this culture in which I live now.
Jesus, thank you for Mugisha’s life, as short as it was. Thank you for the time you gave us with him. He died too young, yet I will trust you. Thank you that he is no longer suffering. Please let Madina know you are near. I pray she would be drawn by your love and know the hope and comfort that only comes from you. Be near to her, the broken hearted and bring healing to her heart. Love her in ways she can recognize as she walks this path of grief. Amen