For Alianna: Part 2 – A Child’s Funeral Flowers

4 July 2011 (continued from Part 1 – Well of Sorrow)

The background sound to most of the next morning is the relentless hammering and sawing to make Alianna’s coffin. Like the day before, Mira won’t eat or drink and at times blacks out. Veronica, a Peace Corps volunteer who has lived with Marc’s family for the past year, has been caring for Mira. Mira gets more upset when she’s near Alianna’s body, yet some people let her go there. I find out from Veronica later that some people said things to Mira like “its your fault your baby died.” I cannot understand why now of all times people would choose to attack a grieving mother. There does seem to be a dark side of humans that finds it easier to blame people for their misfortune, maybe to make us feel less likely it could happen to us?  This accident could have happened to anyone in the Village.  No one has a secure well, and most people leave their kids “unattended” (with the eldest child in charge).

I feel quite useless waiting, but then Marc’s wife, Jana, mentions she’d like to make a crown of flowers for Alianna. I leap at the chance to do something useful and volunteer to go pick flowers. A teen girl is sent with me to go to a nearby household with lots of flowers. I take off on my borrowed bike, thrilled to use my muscles for something. We come back loaded with flowers, and I ask what is Mira’s favourite colour. Pink. So I help Jana weave a crown from pink, yellow, & orange flowers. There are lots of flowers left, so I imagine they can be handed to people at the funeral service to hold. A fitting visual for a funeral for a sweet little girl.

Finally just before noon the funeral starts. And a friend of the family is already handing out the flowers, mostly orange and yellow ones that remind me of marigolds. I hold three, for past, present, & future. It looks so sad and lovely to see almost everyone holding the flowers, many already wilting, as fragile and ephemeral as all Life is.

I’m underwhelmed by the Service, the preacher seems to take this as an opportunity to drill in the message that this must have happened because the parents and community did not repent enough. And so better repent now. I wish he would save that for his Sunday sermons. Why not celebrate this little girl’s Life, and try to offer her family words of wisdom and love to help them heal? For example, a good time to talk about stones and glass houses.  Its another jarring moment for me… does anyone else feel this way, too, or is it just that I’m not from here?

The small coffin is carried to the above ground Cement tomb, similar to how it is done in Georgetown. One of the teachers has organized the children, and they start to sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. The savannah spins and shifts on me as tears well into my eyes. The song causes my heart and mind to ricochet back to 2009, when My Edna died. She was my Guyanese Nanny, a key member of my family, and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” was the lullaby she sang to me and my brother when we were little. My favourite lullaby. I am overwhelmed again by the pain and grief of her loss, for the woman who loved me unconditionally.  It was surreal for me to kiss her goodbye three times, when they opened the casket, the still form inside so unrecognizable as My Edna, but the softness of her skin when I kissed her forehead meant there was no mistake. Then I grieved for a parent. Here, now, the parents grieve for a child. I can barely fathom what it would be like to kiss a child goodbye.

To kiss a beautiful little girl with a crown of flowers goodbye. A hinge on the casket allows people one last look or kiss before she is put in the tomb.

Mira cannot stand as they seal the tomb with wet cement. So Marc sits with her on the ground, holding his sister. The other two sisters are close by. He murmurs to her to remember she has three other children who need her, that she cannot follow Alianna but has to stay and care for them. This brotherly love is one of my strongest memories of this sad time.

We are hurt terribly when we lose the one we Love. But Love is also the key to how we heal from the loss.

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