You've Helped to Bury the Dead

Imagine that you're Wendi...

We visited with Wendi, her son and her grandparents
2-3 times per week for several weeks before her grandpa died.
You're a young, single mom living with your elderly grandparents in a small, one-bedroom house recently built by the government to provide a bit of relief from the dangers of extreme poverty. Grandpa hasn't been able to eat for almost a month. Each time Grandpa moans in pain, Grandma seems to feel his pain in her heart. There is nothing she can do other than sit patiently and wait for her best friend to starve to death. The day finally arrives. As Grandpa struggles for his last breath, Grandma collapses in grief beside him. What do you do? Where do you turn? As an only child, you have no siblings to help. Your dad has been out of the picture for years, your mom lives in another pueblo and won't be able to come for days, and all of your aunts and uncles live far away.  

In most cases the priests are unable to preside over the deceased
because the pueblo to priest ratio is so unfavorable.
However, we were able to arrange for Fr. Paco to lead the family
in a memorial service one of the nights, which meant so much to them all.

Praise God, Wendi sent a neighbor kid to "get the missionaries" minutes after her grandpa passed. When we arrived, she was upset and frazzled.  She knew that there was a lot to do, but what?  Where should she start and what could she possibly do since her family has no money?  We took her to buy a casket.  We also arranged for the funeral service provider to prepare the front room of their home for the viewing. 

We took Wendi to the market to buy all the food she would need to feed the community as they visited over the next several days.  This included a stop at the "chicken guy" whereby we purchased 10 live chickens.  Accustomed to this routine, our kids carried the squawking birds by their feet to the van.   

Wendi's friends and neighbors got right to work making soup for dinner that night.  They also were happy to be able to serve the standard fare of coffee and bread around 11pm for those that would stay all night to be with the family.

Over the next several days their home was a hub of activity.   Meals were constantly being prepared for the visitors from near and far.  

We led rosaries and other prayerful meditations morning, noon and night.  Some days started with prayer at 5am and concluded with prayer at 11pm, which is a demanding schedule for our two youngest team members.  

In between the scheduled activities, when the family just needed a break, we hung out with them in the backyard and did our best to bring a smile to everyone's faces.  We shared funny stories and encouraged others to do the same.  The laughter that rang through the air refreshed and re-energized, which is exactly what they said they needed.   

Later that week, a funeral team arrived to take Ulises to the cemetery.  As is the custom here, they put the casket in the back of a station wagon and led a procession around the town square.  We then continued on to the cemetery for the burial.

Chris led the family in song and prayer as they said their last good-byes.  

The death of a loved one is such a hard thing to experience, especially without the support of the church. 

Given the shortage of priests, most families struggle through the death of their loved ones alone.

We have been so blessed to be able to bring families like this one the gift of faith, the love of Christ and the hope that exists in His promise of eternal life.

According to the USCCB
(United States Catholic Conference of Bishops),
the Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus
and give us a model for how we should treat all others,
as if they were Christ in disguise.
They are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors
in their bodily needs.  They respond to the basic needs of humanity
as we journey together through this life.

I believe that Jesus knew the hardships this family would face when He instituted the Corporal Works of Mercy almost 2,000 years ago.

In addition to sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and giving alms to the poor, Jesus taught us to bury the dead.

Scripture tells us time and again that Jesus hears the cry of the poor.

Proverbs 21:13 reminds us of the importance of listening for their cry as well:

"Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves call out and not be answered."

Thank you very much for helping us to bury the dead.  Together, we're able to be Christ for those He's called us to serve.

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