We have often said that motorcyclists here are in great danger, and this week that proved to be tragically true. We had the sad experience of sharing the loss of the father and husband of some of our dear friends here in Granada.
We learned of his death the Saturday afternoon, when people started gathering at the church where we were teaching piano lessons. Everyone was preparing to walk to the family home to offer condolences, so we decided to join them as soon as our lessons were done. We drove out to the house three hours later, only to discover that the visiting time was past, and the family was already at the wake. Fortunately, we encountered someone who knew where we needed to go and was grateful to join us for a ride into town.
When we reached the funeral home, about a hundred people were already gathered outside the building sitting in plastic chairs. As soon as we had hugged the family, people started offering us chairs, and we realized that we were the only ones standing or talking. A Nicaraguan wake consists of everyone sitting up all night, literally staying awake to watch over the body until its burial the next morning. Since this is the tropics, there is no delay between death and burial. Throughout the night, the funeral home served “pan dulce” (sweet bread) and “pinolillo,” a native drink made from cocoa, maiz, and a little sugar.
As our friend sat singing hymns to herself, someone finally asked her if she would like some hymns. The family members selected some favorite hymns, and we got a keyboard and music from the car and set up a makeshift table near the casket. All the missionaries and church members gathered around and we had a prayer and then sang comforting hymns for about an hour. That was the closest thing to a “funeral” that was held.
We did not stay all night, so we’re not sure if we gave offense or were written off as clueless foreigners. People were surprised when we got up to leave after we thought we had been there a decent amount of time. By then there were several hundred mourners, but we still didn’t realize it was an all-night vigil.
The next morning after our sacrament meeting, all the other Sunday school and small-group meetings were cancelled, and everyone walked to the funeral home to join the procession to the cemetery. A horse drawn hearse carried the coffin, and all the family and friends followed through the streets across the city.
What a sad and sudden reminder that life is very fragile. A healthy man of fifty was suddenly taken from his family and all of this life’s preoccupations.
However, a faithful and hopeful family carries on with amazing fortitude. They have great faith in the eventual reunion of their family, and are already making plans to go to the temple in Honduras to be sealed together for eternity. Last night, we gathered with them to hear 20-year old Olga bear her testimony that life is eternal and that the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us all hope of salvation. Then she was set apart by our mission president for her own year and a half of service in El Salvador. (Olga is the young woman in the black blouse above.)
Since people here usually live with extended family in the same house or compound, Olga’s mother shares her very rustic but loving home with her married sons and their wives, and she is anticipating a new baby in the house in two months. She is devastated by the loss of her beloved husband, but grateful that Olga can go forward teaching the gospel.
It makes me think of 1 Peter 3: 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you . . .