Yesterday morning we went to the “haus krai” (literally, house cry) for Rebeka’s daughter, Nensi. This is the PNG version of funeral home visitation in Canada, and Australia too, I imagine. Here it takes place at the home of the deceased, and the family themselves have prepared the body for burial. In this case, the coffin had not yet been purchased and so her body lay on a bed outside, under the house, covered in a blanket. You had to look closely to see that there was indeed a body there—she was so frail by the end of her life, there was hardly anything left. Sitting on the ground surrounding the body were women who had come to grieve with Rebeka. They did not sit there and wail like some do. Nor had they cut themselves or poured boiling water over their bodies like we have heard of other grieving people doing. They were sitting there in quiet support. Ian opened Scripture and shared some words of comfort. And as we sat there, I looked around at the women, many of them older women, and saw their worn-out bodies and lined faces, and calloused feet and I wondered, what stories have filled their lives? I noticed that one woman had lost a hand and the other hand was gnarled and without one finger. What is her life story? Compared to young Nensi, all of these women have lived long lives and undoubtedly have carried their share of burdens through the years. Maybe some were abused and probably most had to bury a son or daughter already. TB, dehydration, malaria and now AIDS is claiming many, many lives, even, very young lives.
And sitting there around that lifeless, skeleton of a body, the finality of death was made so apparent to me again. One day here, the next day--just an empty shell. It was obvious that there is absolutely no life left, the decaying process already at work. But the beauty of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ is that the spirit, the soul, was alive and well with Him! What a powerful reality! I felt this sense of urgency; hoping and praying that all of those women knew and believed the words of Scripture Ian had read and shared with them. And that if they are still lost, the Lord would use Nensi’s death to lead them Home!
As sister Rebecca didn’t want the body of Nensi put in the morgue, the funeral service and burial all happened the day after she died, in the afternoon. I was home with the kids, but Ian shared with me that through it all the mourning was very subdued. One commented that the Words of Christ bring hope in the face of such tragedy. Yet there was one, Ian said, who wept uncontrollably. It was Nensi’s young husband. Although we never met him, they had married about a year ago and already then TB was beginning to take its toll on Nensi’s life. They never enjoyed the dawning years of matrimony. Instead, they experienced very early on the setting sun, the goodbye. We hope and pray that if he doesn’t know the hope of glory, that the Spirit through the Word will quicken his heart to know it. That in Christ there is life, so that even when you die you live!
This is sister Rebeka, Nensi's mother. The photo was taken in June 2007, when she officially became a member of our church.