This past week has been very difficult. Offey, a seven month old baby girl, passed away. She was born two months premature and had ongoing health problems. The baby's illness was rare, and the local health clinic was not able to provide treatment. On Monday, Chris and I, along with Porcia (who helps us with translation), took the mother and baby to a private hospital in Pretoria (about three hours from where we live).
The wait at the hospital was long and the registration process very confusing. We were only able to visit Offey and her mother for fifteen minutes every three to four hours. The children's section of the emergency facility was painted blue with simple drawings of Mickey and Mini Mouse decorating one of the walls. I can still picture Chris sitting in the over-sized black chair in the children's ward holding Offey and whispering secrets to her. I'm not sure what those secrets were exactly, but I think they were whispers of God's love and the eternal home in heaven that was prepared for her.
Offey was in a great deal of pain. Her small body was malnourished, and her head was swollen from the fluid that surrounded her brain. She was no longer able to see or to breath her nose. She was wrapped in blanket lying in a crib when she breathed her last.
In South African culture prior to burial of a loved one, a religious service is held each evening for a number of days at the family home. I had the honor of sharing at two of those services. The first evening, I talked about God's great love for children. The second evening, I discussed a passage from 2 Samuel. King David's infant son was very ill. For seven days, David fasted and prayed. He didn't bathe and refused to sleep in his bed. He laid on the floor grieving for his sick child. David deduced that his son had passed away when he noticed the servants whispering. Upon learning about the death of his child, the king went to the temple to worship God. He bathed, changed his clothes and ate a meal.
His close friends didn't understand David's behavior.They were confused that while his son was ill the king mourned, but when the son passed away, the king removed himself from the floor, cleaned himself up, and requested food.
Grieving looks different to different people. We all mourn our losses in various ways.Some mourn in the presence of family and friends, while others grieve in solitude. Some refuse physical nourishment, while others need bodily fuel to get through the long lonely days.
When King David's friends questioned his behavior, he responded with these words, "I can't bring him back. Someday I will go to him, but he won't return to me."
Our hearts are saddened, yet no one can bring Offey back. She won't return to this earth, but someday her mama, her grandmother, her church family, and others, including Chris and me, will go to her in heaven.