We recently lost one of our little girls who has been part of the ministry for about 6 years.
Keziah has had some kidney or liver issues ever since she was treated for TB a number of years ago. But basically she has been a healthy, vibrant girl. When the family returned from visiting the village at Christmastime, Keziah was sick. She was receiving treatment at the Mashiah clinic.
Then yet another Jos crisis erupted, forcing residents to remain home-bound for basically a week. Larai had been afraid to even go out to seek help for Keziah--and we didn't know that Keziah was still sick. On the morning of Friday, Jan 14, they arrived at our home. We touched Keziah and prayed for her, and sent her on her way to one of the major hospitals in town. Death never even crossed my mind. But that afternoon we got the call that she didn't make it. I believe Keziah was a secondary casualty of the recent crisis. No, she wasn't caught up in a riot, but because of the tenuous nature of the town, her mother felt she could not seek help.
Everyone was devastated. The mother especially. This little girl has been her reason for living.
Starting on Saturday morning, visitor after visitor came to console Larai. In Nigeria, this basically means sitting with the bereaved for hours and hours, many times saying nothing, simply being there. Larai's female relations stayed with her continually from Saturday morning until Tuesday, the day after the burial. I learned a lot about how the grieving process is played out since we were basically serving as her family.
Generally, when children die in Nigeria, they are buried very quickly. It's a painful affair, and the male relatives generally take care of the burial the next day. No service is usually held.
But we had a service for Keziah on Monday, Jan 17, at Bezer Home. It looked like there were about 150 people in attendance.After the service, we all trekked out to a community burial ground just behind the Mashiah Foundation land.
I was observing the committal service from a distance while standing on a four-foot stone fence. As the coffin was lowered into the ground, Larai started to wail and cry out for her daughter: "Mama, have you gone? Is it true?" Then she cried, "Mommy!" For a second I thought she might be calling me because that is what the women call me, but I also thought she might be calling one of her relatives. She called again and I didn't move. Then she called, "Mary Bet!" Bayo found me and helped me jump down from the wall so I could console her along with her female relatives. She kept glancing toward the grave with a crazed look on her face. The wailing continued until she was exhausted. By then, most of the people had started to trek back to Bezer Home. The men filled in the grave and then searched for big stones to put on top of the fresh grave.
After the initial outpouring of grief, most people become quite stoic in the days that follow. We are currently working with Larai's remaining three children as well as the Bezer Home children, and especially Larai, to help them work through their grief. And of course, we are grieving too.