June 21, 2010

Funeral day

Baby's grave, La Ceiba, Honduras

After the Human Rights Commission on Friday, we went to the morgue to see if the autopsy had been performed and whether the body was ready to be released. It was, which meant that we had to go back to Arexy's house to pick up the casket and then back to the morgue − or carry the baby back home in a black garbage bag.

El Jefe had an important event to which he had committed and was already late, but I begged him to handle this. The people there had been very rude to me yesterday and I was so fearful about what kind of condition the body would be in. I was also afraid for Arexy to be subject to any more...well, to anything.

Additionally, Kenia told us that she didn't feel strong enough to dress the baby again. Since it had been 2 1/2 days since he died and the body wasn't embalmed, I didn't know if it would even be possible to dress the baby or if that could cause some damage. So I wanted J to ask the people at the morgue to dress him, or to at least wrap him in a blanket and place him in the casket, to show a little human decency.

Thankfully, they had dressed the baby again in the clothes and little hat that he had been wearing. J and Arexy had to deal with inefficient paperwork again and then we were done, hopefully forever, with the morgue.


We planned for the burial at 2 p.m. I dropped J off at his appointment and we drove back to Arexy and Kenia's house where the baby was placed back on the table for viewing. I would have preferred to keep the casket closed at that point but it wasn't my place to say anything. Everyone commented about how beautiful he was and how he looked as if he was asleep. It wasn't true.

More and more people arrived until finally a little barrel-shaped woman arrived, looked around, and yelled, "What are you going to do with all these women? You better get some men to fill the grave!" Jeesh! Another thing that we didn't think about.

The hole was dug on Thursday, but now the hole would have to be refilled after the service. We were responsible for that. Kenia made some calls to make sure that we would have at least two men to help. Someone else mentioned that we also had to nail the coffin shut − another thing that I didn't know about. The coffin just had a lid, no hinges, no latch. I mention all of these details so that anyone else in a situation like this can be better prepared and more orgainized than we were.

El Jefe, who by then had arrived by taxi, called a worker we had at our house and told him to get a couple of shovels, a hammer, and some nails and bring them on his bicycle to meet us at the cemetery. And hurry! I also requested that he cut some flowers from the garden since most of the flowers from Wednesday night were looking pretty sad. He did a great job and brought a huge bouquet of every color.

Earlier in the day, I had remembered that we didn't have a cross or anything to mark the grave but with everything else we had to do, it seemed too late to get something made. However, someone had made a homemade cross for the grave as well as some palm frond decorations with paper flowers.

San Isidro Cemetery, La Ceiba, HondurasThe cemetery is called San Isidro. It is the newer public cemetery a little way outside of town. It is not a manicured cemetery by any means, but I commented that it looked very pretty, with lots of colorful flowers, real and plastic, on most of the graves. I don't think that Arexy had seen it before and I think she was relieved and also thought that it looked nice.

All together, there were at least two dozen people including children at the cemetery. No one wanted to speak so J took charge and did a wonderful job, as he always does. He thanked God for giving us this baby but then choked up when he spoke of the baby's 19 days of life and had to stop for a minute or two to gain composure. Most of us were tearing up while we waited and Arexy was sobbing.

J always knows exactly the right things to say and he says them from the heart which is evident to everyone. Kenia also spoke, particularly thanking J and I for helping Arexy through this sad time. I wished she hadn't, but it was sweet to see and hear the acknowledgments of appreciation from the people there. I bowed my head thinking how sad it was that most poor people do not have the means to bury their loved ones unless friends help out. Apparently everyone knew that we were helping Arexy. Not too surprising, I guess.

When they were through speaking, I mentioned the nails but the barrel-shaped woman said, no, that type of coffin didn't need to be nailed. There was a bit of a discussion about whether or not to nail which J solved by saying that this should be the mother's decision, to which everyone agreed. Arexy decided no nails.

Unfortunately, the poor baby had to suffer one last indignity. When lowering the casket, one of the men let the rope slip and the casket fell the last foot or so to the bottom, the lid fell off, and the baby's feet slipped out of the casket. There was a collective gasp from the crowd. Another man jumped into the grave, and quickly re-situated the baby and put the lid back on. Arexy started crying again and everyone was horrified that that had happened.

We all threw a little dirt into the grave and then one of the men and a sweet little boy of about 10 years old solemnly did most of the filling. Arexy's father helped with the last bit.

The cross was put into place and all the flowers were arranged over the grave. It looked beautiful and Arexy felt good about it.


We drove back to Arexy's house on the other side of town for the fourth time in one day. The atmosphere was much less tense. Everyone had been quite concerned about the length of time it had taken to bury the baby. Generally burial is done within 24 hours since embalming is not commonly performed.

Arexy's father in particular had been complaining to her that she should have buried him sooner and should not have requested the autopsy, and basically that she should not be listening to us. I didn't realize this since the man never spoke to us the entire day, which I did think was odd, except that he wasn't speaking to anyone else either.

I want to make it clear that we don't want, need, or expect thanks from anyone, but I have to point out that this man, who is the one person who should have been helping and supporting Arexy, did absolutely not one thing to help her, either financially or emotionally.

In fact, he did just the opposite, we found out later, trying to make her feel stupid about the decisions that she was making. Arexy's mother abandoned her when she was small. She left for the US and Arexy never heard from her again. I think that her father has abused her and has been a terrible influence on her life. He is the person most responsible for her timidity and lack of self esteem. Thank goodness she has Kenia to rely on and to encourage her.

We stayed around for an hour or so chatting. The woman who had originally recommended Arexy to work for us was there. I reminded her of what she had told us about 16 months ago − "La Ceiba women don't want to work, but I'll see if I can find someone from somewhere else." We all laughed about that − well, the La Ceiba women maybe less so. ;-) She was impressed that I remembered but I told her about some of the experiences we had had with women who just disappeared after one day or one week of work and never came back again. "I don't understand! I'm not mean to workers, I swear!", I defended myself. Arexy defended me, too, with a smile and a nod, and then laughed and told them how I would ask her every Friday if she was coming back on Monday. "Are you sure?" I would ask. For some reason, they all thought that was hilarious.


I've reclassified all of these related articles under "Arexy's story" to make it easier for anyone who is joining in late.
Newer posts Older posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...