March 19, 2009


(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)

Our house was close to the Single Boys quarters. If something particularly loud was going on we could hear it in our place.

Ever now and then (not very often, but often enough that we knew what it was) we would wake up to hear a loud wail. It was a high, loud, mournful sound which was then joined by other voices.

We knew then that someone had died. A message had traveled from one of the islands that a relative of one of the students had died and now they were mourning their loss, and other people were sharing in their pain.

Being a kid I never really paid much attention to things like that. Death was not a part of my world. I have only one vivid memory of being part of a mourning.

Dad had received a phone call, and come back upset. Mum came and told us that His grandmother had died in Australia. Joshua and I were not sure what to do. It was very rare to see Dad so upset. Great Grandma was a vague shadow in our memory, we were use to the people in our everyday sphere, or the relatives that we were in direct contact through letters and parcels.

The news soon spread around the campus and the next afternoon everyone from the college came to our house to mourn with us. Our house was full, with people sitting on the floor though out the main room.

First we sat and most people cried. Then someone started to sing and we all sang some choruses. Then Pastor Kalsikal lead us in prayer. Afterwards Dad, Mum, Joshua and I lined up so that everyone could shake our hands and tell us personally how sorry they were.

Looking back as an adult I appreciate how the community banded together. Everyone came to support the people who were grieving, and showed that when one person in a community was hurt, everyone hurt. There was no shying away from the pain, they acknowledged it straight up.

I don't know if this continued, or if it was only for the day, so I'm not sure how people reacted in a few days afterwards; if they mentioned it or ignored it as I feel happens here. Like I said, I was only a kid and death had not yet made an impact on my life.

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