Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Deafening Anguish vs mournful quiet

I'm taking a break from blogging about Easter -lots to say about it apparently!- to write a short blog about an even shorter experience I had tonight. Another wake - bringing the total to 15 since I've been here.Don't worry..I don't go to all of them!!- but this time, a very different experience. I've never been at a wake when they first 'received the body' into the Church, where it stays for 3 days -2 wake days and one funeral day-. I usualy only go to one of the wakes, which take place after the body arrives at the Church. Tonight, was different.
I wouldn't have thought anything special would happen for this, so I stayed home while Doug went to the Church..but after almost half an hour, he still hadn't returned, so I assumed he was busy with setting up. That's when  I went down to check in on him. I took two steps towards the Church, heard loud drumming inside, and dashed back to the house for my camera...in the end, I didn't end up taking a picture of the drummers, because I felt that would be too touristy...but boy was I tempted. So instead of a picture, you get my description of the scene (-;

  I actually had a personal connection to the deceased: A 29 year old father of 5 named Robert Cooper. I answered the phone at  the rectory when his mother called us to ask that we  add him to the prayers of the faithful, in the 'prayers for the sick and hospitalized' section. The next Monday, I found out he was the nephew of Ms Theresa, the Principal of the Junior school where I teach. I've been checking in with her almost every day about Robert's condition. There seemed to be much hope around his recovery, so his death was a little surprising to everyone -he was hospitalized after a fall which left him unconscious and near death  for a short period of  time. He regained consciousness recently, but was completely paralyzed...I'm not sure what's happened to aggravate the situation.-

  In the end, I did not stay long at the Church, for it was not a real wake with prayers and songs...it was a very private family moment...but like I said...tremendously spiritual drumming and chanting filled the Church and drew me in. It was intense. I've described this kind of singing recently in an an email as a very moving experience.I had the privilige to be at a funeral in February where they sang the Honor Song. I still have goose bumps thinking about that...but tonight's experience  was even more intense. There was something incredibly emotional about the drumming. It was rhythmic and engaging, but at the same time, accompanied by the exquisite wailing of the 6 men who all banged on this one single drum at the same time -so with 6 different drum hammers...sticks..whatever you would call it.- It was entrancing, but also deeply anguished. This double quality in their song was best captured at one point as one of the young girls present in the Church was skipping to the beat of the drums with all her youthful effervescence..and when they stopped drumming, all you could hear the was the quiet, mournful sobs of the family, whose mourning was only punctuated even more poignantly by the drumming which picked up again a few seconds later. It almost seemed as if the drummers were saying  "dont' you worry Coopers...we'll mourn with you in our deafening anguish, but we won't interrupt your sacred silence too long...just long enough for you to remember that a whole community mourns with you".

 I swear if I am ever missioned here again, the moment one of my friends in the community passes away and that song is played, I'll freeking loose it. Their sacred songs carry so much with them, it's no wonder they've had such a huge impact on me!! My emotional response to these events is a comfort of sorts, because I am frustrated that I can't go up to people to hug them in their grief. I'm amazed as I witness  how this community supports each other, but am heart broken that I can't take part in it...but I guess, if I weep with them, then I am partaking in the communal grief. That's something that unites me to them, even though they may not see it that way!!

I ask you all to pray for the Cooper family, and for the people of Wiki!

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