Yesterday, when we returned from Pangani, Mama Marianna took us in to see the new baby who had just arrived that morning. His name was Hussein and he weighed 1.5 kg. This comes to about 3 pounds. He was premature, born at home, and his mother had died during the birth. I had never seen such a small baby. Tom had seen some even smaller, but in the NICU unit at Cooper Hospital in an incubator.
The staff of the home did everything they could for little Hussein, but at about 1am last night, he died. Everyone here was devastated by the loss of this small baby. It was a very quiet morning. Everyone spoke in low voices. The children played in the indoor areas and even they were quieter than normal. When we arrived this morning, Mama Marianna took us to see Hussein. He was in a little crib in an extra room, wrapped in a blanket, with ice packs around him, and covered by a sheet and a small bouquet of flowers.
Mama Marianna asked Tom if he would help with the trip to the church. Tom washed the truck which was caked in mud from our return trip yesterday. We would wait for the arrival of Hussein’s grandmother and family members.
At about 12:30, the family arrived. Most of the girls were waiting too, wrapped in their kangas. As we started to get into the car, one of the men who works here came out of the reception room carrying a small wooden coffin. The grandmother and two other women got into the back seat. The employees of the home all got into the back of the pick-up truck with the coffin and the girls began to sing quietly. Tom drove slowly to the church and followed a dirt road into the bush. After only a hundred yards, we saw the burial site in a small area to the side of the road. The grave had been dug by the men who work at the home. The man who cuts the grass carried the small coffin and laid it gently in the grave. The girls continued to sing quietly. When the song ended, Mr Kipingu, the Evangelist, began the graveside service. There was a hymn, a reading from the Gospel of Mark, and some prayers. Mr. Kipingu spoke very gently and then there was some noise from behind us in the brush. An unsuspecting farmer was bringing his cows down the dirt road to another field. Because our truck was parked int the one lane road, the cows were coming through the cemetery. There were about twenty cows and they were moving very quickly. The men from the home picked up some sticks keep the cows from the grave site and to move them back to the road.
At the end of his message, Mr. Kipingu led us in Baba Yetu, the Lord’s Prayer. The grandmother, family members, and Mama Marianna each put a handful of dirt on the coffin. Then we were all invited to do the same. The grave was filled by the four men and then one of the men used the shovel handle to make an impression of a cross on the top of the grave. Hussein’s grandmother and Rocathe, one of the child care workers, each put a small bouquet of flowers on the top. The other girls then added loose flowers and cut folliage on top of the grave.
Blessed are they who die in the name of the Lord.