For a week in mid-September (2014) I was in Haiti. I’ve been digesting my experience bit by bit here on my blog. You can find the whole series of Snapshots here.
There’s this Haitian they call Superman. And there’s this story from years ago– that when they were building the mission, a wall began to cave in and one of the other workers was trapped under the dirt. All the Haitians froze, staring at the man as he struggled to get out from under the debris. Larry (he’s the missionary that we stayed with) jumped in and started to dig with his hands frantically as the Haitians screamed, “It’s going to cave in! Get out! Get out!” But Larry kept digging faster and the Haitians kept yelling louder.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Superman swept in. He lifted both of them men out of the hole. He got them to safety and literally seconds later, the entire wall caved in. Superman, risking his own life, saved them from being buried alive.
I didn’t get to meet Superman. He died just a few days before we arrived in Haiti, of an infection. After all he did for the people of Haiti (he spent twenty years building the mission and working there), it was fitting that we were there for his funeral. He was 47 years old.
We rode in the bed of a pickup truck 45 minutes to the town of his funeral. Most of the way there, as I was precariously balancing, exercising muscle groups that I didn’t know existed, I was selfishly thinking of the amazing cultural experience this would be. A funeral! And just a day into my trip! I asked if I could take pictures.
And then we arrived. I couldn’t process the sound I heard, because I had never heard anything like it. Ever.
It was the sound of wailing. A church full of wailing people, rocking back and forth, pleading, “Jesus, Jesus”. At times we couldn’t even hear the Pastor talking because the wailing was so loud. It was so hot and so stifling. My new friend, Pam, and I were squeezed next to one another, the sweat running down our backs. People kept sitting next to us… and when I thought we couldn’t possibly fit one more in our row, we fit four more. She would lean forward and I would lean back. And then we would switch because there was no room for both of us to be in the same position.
There were no flowers, only ribbons made to look like flowers, because flowers would cost too much. We were told that Superman’s widow would be paying for this funeral for a very long time.
I closed my eyes and drifted off, unable to process the grief and sorrow I was hearing. These people– they have so little. So much has been taken from them and they live with their souls wide open, rejoicing and grieving without abandon. So raw.
They carried his widow out with the casket. She was unable to support herself. His two young daughters, too. They loaded his casket onto the back of a truck and then we walked. Hundreds of us walked quietly for over 30 minutes, following the truck to the cemetery.
And we watched from a distance as they destroyed his casket, pulling the handles off of it, to keep it from being stolen. The tombstones were cement, with crude dates written by hand on them. I learned that in a few years, the people take the remains of a person out, shove the bones back and make room for someone else.
I could only pray, “Lord, have mercy.” These people have experienced too much grief, too much hardship. With a freshness, my heart broke open as I realized how deeply Jesus loves these people and how He loves the underdog without abandon.
I have no good ending for this story, no little sweet verse to tie it up neatly. This one cut me to the core. I never want to get over it, yet it haunts me. Now that I’m home, in the world of changing leaves and running errands and pumpkin lattes, it almost seems unbelievable. And yet there is a very real widow today, putting the pieces of her life back together, putting one foot in front of the other in order to survive. Lord, have mercy on her today.