Sunday, December 8, 2013

Week 40

Another tragedy and Ugandan Funeral

One of our young Church members, Teddy Okot, was murdered the Monday before Thanksgiving.  She was poisoned as well as attacked by “bouncers” or hit men.  Her colleague and roommate is under arrest, but they are looking for the accomplices.  It was well known that the roommate was jealous of Teddy’s promotion to head teacher and also was overtly angry about Teddy’s involvement with the church and her preparations for a mission
(As we read the Book of Mormon and its constant warnings about secret combinations or those who conspire for power, prestige or personal gain, we see an increase in these patterns of selfishness, hatred and murder taking place all around the world.  When people rejected Christ and His teachings, in its place they often embrace the evil designs of Satan and his followers. We cannot live in a vacuum of amorality.  Either men choose to follow good or choose to follow evil, but with those choices, the consequences will ultimately follow whether in this life or when we return to our Maker.)
We had been with Teddy on Saturday - just two days earlier at a young single adult activity.  She was the girl in white on the see-saw in the previous weeks blog post.  She was a happy, beautiful young woman striving to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
The family opted for "post mortem" or an autopsy since they knew it was a murder.  The morning of the autopsy we went to that part of the hospital to assisst the family with some of the arrangements, but they had not yet arrived.  The only person there was the police detective and his assistant.  The doctors wanted/expected family to view the autopsy process, along with the detective.  They invited Pam to participate, which she did with Teddy's mother. 
Following the autopsy on Wednesday, the family wanted to have the burial that afternoon.
Some of her family live in “the village”about one half hour north of Gulu. People are buried on their family land. It may not be “their” land but where they have squatted for years.
The short notice gave the branch president only two hours to prepare everything.  We picked him up at the chapel, along with his wife and baby, one of his counselors and the Relief Society President (Teddy served as one of her counselors).   The BP and his counselor spoke at the service as well as our Institute President, Patrick Kumakech…one of Teddy’s peer leaders.

This was a traditional Ugandan funeral.  As we approached the covered seating area, there were perhaps a dozen of more women surrounding the casket singing a funeral dirge.  It had likely been going on for some time and continued for a while after we were seated in the covered area.  Everyone else sat in the open on the ground except “honored” guests, in this case, the males from our church and Pam.  We all had the covering and chairs.
We were surprised that before the funeral began, people were allowed to view Teddy.  Pam asked about this since a complete autopsy had been performed.  The viewing was actually of only a small part of her face.  When they were ready to conclude the viewing, some men covered Teddy's face.  Pam was deeply touched that a couple older women essentially shooed them aside to tuck in the coverings just so perfectly.  She thought, "so much like our compassionate Relief Society Sisters." 

The conclusion of the singing marked the time the service was to begin.   A number of individuals had been pre-selected to approach the casket and place some beautiful wild flowers on top.  There were more people than tiny bouquets, so the one of the directors would remove some of the flowers from the casket, put them back in the tub they came in and then hand them to the next person in line.

A family friend served as a funeral director and gave instructions to those attending…maybe close to 100 people. 

After the talks, the family placed a container and a picture of Teddy while people sang.    The container was for donations.  Those who wanted would come and drop whatever they wanted into the container.   People are very poor so those that are able may only give 100 -1,000 shillings – 4 – 39 cents.   Families are grateful for any donations.  The autopsy alone was over 400,000 shillings, not much by our standards, but exorbitant for Gulugans.

The family and neighbors always prepare a meal and drinks for all those who attend the burial.  “Honored”guests are first in line.  Some of the women assist with a jerry can of water and a bar soap to wash your hands.  There are no towels or paper for drying (any place)– you wipe on your clothes or a nearby wall.  The food is nearly always beans, posho and boiled goat meat in a savory sauce.  They have no eating utensils, you eat everything with your fingers, but posho is a thick mound, so pieces are broken off to use as kind of scoop along with your fingers.  It is all actually quite tasty.

There were a couple of local politicians who spoke following the official service.   Also some members of the army spoke.   By then people were eating and mingling but the politicians and military spoke to many who were still seated and interested in what they had to say.  The entire service was in the Acholi language so Pam and I understood nothing of what was said.

Teddy’s father and mother were very brave, even stoic.  Her Mom received a  priesthood blessing of comfort from the branch president and counselor before we departed.  Teddy’s older sister, however,  was overcome with grief and passed out on two separate occasions while standing.  She really fell hard hitting her head on the concrete-like ground on both occasions.  Following her second incident, I (Brooks) carried some bottled water to her and cooled her down splashing a little water on her arms and forehead while gently blowing a cool breath across her head.  She soon came around and was helped away. 
We are constantly learning from the resilience of these people.  In spite of their constant struggles -- or because of their constant struggles -- they do not lose faith in Christ.  They do not become bitter about their afflictions.  Even though they mourn the loss of their loved ones, their hope in a better life hereafter sustains them through all their suffering and afflictions. We are learning every day from the higher perspective of these good people.

Friends and family literally arrive by the truckload.  In the background is a 16 passenger taxi.  It is expensive to travel 30-45 minutes out.  There are a few cars.  Mostly taxi's and a two trucks like the one above.
"Special guests" sat under this makeshift tarp.  Support poles are from slender tree trunks.  The roof is a combination of plastic tarp and canvass...all tied together with banana leaves.
Mourners approach the casket with is partially open for viewing.  Only her eyes and nose and mouth are visible because of her autopsy.  The doctors discovered that she had bruises on her head and her neck had been broken.  Likely to finish off the poison she had ingested, as her cell showed she had tried to call her family for help.  The roommate was still in the hut whenTeddy was discovered dead.  She was sitting up pretending to be unconscious.  She was thoroughly checked out at Lacor hospital and nothing was wrong with her.

Just some of the crowd attending the funeral.  The mourning family is so gracious, they refuse to sit under the canvas cover but give that to their guests and sit themselves on the ground under a tree.

After the service the casket is lowered into the ground.
 Loved one sprinkle some dirt on top of the casket to begin the burial.

At the conclusion, the flowers that were placed on the casket during the funeral service are gathered up and placed on top of the grave site. 
The meal that was prepared for all in attendance.  Beans, posho ( a dish of maize flour cooked with water to a porridge), beef. 

Sadly enough, a few months ago someone set fire to a hut where two children of one of the Gulu Branch families were sleeping…nearby the family's main residence.  One child, Brian, was burned to death and the second, Louis, lay in intensive care for several weeks, then the burn unit and then a surgical ward.  We visited him in the hospital on a number of occasions.  We visited the family just this Friday night in their home.  He is now doing great, has a beautiful smile, is very bright but terribly scarred on his arms and left leg.  Locking an occupant inside with a pad lock on the outside and setting a hut roof on fire, all of which are made of straw-thatch , is a common mode of revenge.  It appears those who set this hut on fire simply torched the wrong one. 

Alma Chapter 40 from the Book of Mormon
Christ brings to pass the resurrection of all men—The righteous dead go to paradise and the wicked to outer darkness to await the day of their resurrection—All things will be restored to their proper and perfect frame in the Resurrection. About 74 B.C.
1. Now my son, here is somewhat more I would say unto thee; for I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead. 2. Behold, I say unto you, that there is no resurrection—or, I would say, in other words, that this mortal does not put on aimmortality, this corruption does not bput on incorruption—cuntil after the coming of Christ.  3. Behold, he bringeth to pass the aresurrection of the dead. But behold, my son, the resurrection is not yet. Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many bmysteries which are ckept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection. 4. Behold, there is a time appointed that all shall acome forth from the dead. Now when this time cometh no one knows; but God knoweth the time which is appointed.  5. Now, whether there shall be one time, or a asecond time, or a third time, that men shall come forth from the dead, it mattereth not; for God bknoweth all these things; and it sufficeth me to know that this is the case—that there is a time appointed that all shall rise from the dead.  6. Now there must needs be a space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection.  7. And now I would inquire what becometh of the asouls of men bfrom this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection?  8. Now whether there is more than one atime appointed for men to rise it mattereth not; for all do not die at once, and this mattereth not; all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men.  9. Therefore, there is a time appointed unto men that they shall rise from the dead; and there is a space between the time of death and the resurrection. And now, concerning this space of time, what becometh of the souls of men is the thing which I have inquired diligently of the Lord to know; and this is the thing of which I do know.  10. And when the time cometh when all shall rise, then shall they know that God aknoweth all the btimes which are appointed unto man.  11. Now, concerning the astate of the soul between bdeath and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are ctaken dhome to that God who gave them life.  12.  And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of ahappiness, which is called bparadise, a state of rest, a state of cpeace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

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