I got the phone call early this morning. The phone call that everyone dreads. The it's-never-good-news-in-the-middle-of-the-night phone call at 1am. My Tia, her name is Laura also, was calling to tell me that sweet Naftal had just died.
I was shocked. I cried out and literally said "please don't say that Tia, please tell me that's not true." I wept my way to the main room of the dorm where I woke my Tias with my cries. I wanted to hand the phone to one of my tias - yet another Tia Laura - because I could barely speak, let alone speak and understand in Portuguese. She in turn couldn't speak thru her own tears.
I tried to compose myself enough to call our center directors, Ros and Steve, but as soon as I opened my mouth to speak, I lost all composure again and cried thru my awful news. They were so kind to offer to come up to the dorm (which I declined) and prayed with me over the phone and commiserated over the senselessness of it all.
Then ensued the discussion of how and when to tell Naftal's father. Being a westerner, I (as well as Steve and Ros), preferred to call him straight away, even though it was by now about 1:30 am. But we wisely deferred to my Tias who are, obviously, aware of cultural norms that we can't grasp. They were horrified at the thought of telling him on the phone. And since none of us knew where he lived, we couldn't go tell him in person.
We called my head Tia, Eliza Julieta, who knows where he lives, and decided she would come in by 5am in order to go to his home and tell him as early as possible, hopefully before his day could begin and he left home.
(This was very hard for us Westerners to relate to as we can't imagine waiting to tell a parent six hours that there child had died. But I recalled that when Pedro's grandmother died, his mother was in South Africa. When the family called her, all they told her was to come home, they didn't tell her she had died. They waited to tell her in person, something all my Tias agreed was the absolutely right thing to do. So that experience had kind of prepared me for this.)
Naftal's older brother, Samito, lives in our center as well. So we brought him to the dorm, only knowing he would be visiting home with the Tia.
When my Tia arrived, she found the father at church already, at a prayer meeting praying for his son. Of course, when he saw them, he knew straight away that something was terribly wrong. This poor man, my Tias description of him is "a strong man, strong in his faith who is suffering greatly." It seemed an apt description when I met with him later in the day to arrange the funeral.
We met with Steve as well as our head Mozambican over the children and one of our pastors to make the arrangements. He was staying so strong until we prayed for him when he just broke down in sobs. Crying for Naftal but literally crying out to Jesus as well.
Can I give you a little window into my culturally foreign world? When the tia came back from the hospital, she brought two bags, one which held food and containers and the other which held his clothes and little toys I had brought in for him to amuse himself. I had to ask my Tias two things: 1. Do I give the father back the food (unopened juice and biscuits and chips and yogurt, along with his food containers? and 2. Do I give his father the clothes to use for the ceremonies they do here? Because sometimes I'm not sure what things are traditional and what are of a spiritual nature that we don't want to encourage. I feel I have learned so many cultural norms here and yet when these things happen, I feel I have a million and one things still to learn. That's likely true. (the consensus was, give him the cooking pots but not the food and don't give him the clothes.)
However, one of the worst parts of the day followed: arranging an outfit to give the father for Naftal to be buried in. Little boys shirts and pants are for playing in, for climbing trees in, for tearing out the seat of the pants in, for getting scolded for getting dirty in. Not for being buried in. It.just.isn't.right.
Naftal will be buried tomorrow at 2pm.
But he's already been in his real new home - heaven - for almost 24 hours now as I write this. He IS healed, he IS free from pain, he is NOT suffering. He is - no, he HAS been comforted by Jesus and his heavenly father, as there are no more tears and no more sorrow and no more suffering.
And yet we miss him here with us.
The heartbreak of Naftal's death has been complicated for us by the tragedy of the circumstances surrounding it. I choose not to go into all the details I could in this public blog. I will not share the detail by detail horror of it all, and I do not use that word lightly. Let me share that my director Ros is a nurse. She told me tonight that in 32 years of nursing, she has never seen a patient suffer so greatly yet needlessly (don't misunderstand, she has seen people suffer more but everything was being done for them that could have been done). His suffering could have been greatly alleviated by very simple and inexpensive (like, $5!) treatments that simply were not done for him. He was given absolutely no treatment beyond paracetemol (tylenol) and a multi-vitamin. Ros discovered today that this was not accidental or lack of knowledge, it essentially was a decision of the head doctor in charge.
This extra burden is perhaps the most difficult of all to process.
Wednesday night is Home Group here for the missionaries and we joined together to worship the Lord for his goodness and his sovereignty, as well as to "cast our cares for him for he cares for us."
I'll leave you with the scripture I read and one of the songs we sang that was deeply personal and applicable for me during this time.
In Job 41:10, the Lord says, "Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me."
Job replies in 42:1, "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked "who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know."
I was comforted by these Scriptures that God is indeed sovereign and although I grieve, and I don't understand (as Job acknowledged), I have no "claim" against God. My heart will not be hardened and my faith will not waver. No plan of the Lords can be thwarted.
And the song that means so much to me:
Lord, I surrender all, though I'll never understand all the mysteries surrounding you, I'll just trust your perfect plan.
When I don't know what to do, I'll lift my hands.
When I don't know what to say, I'll speak your praise.
When I don't know where to go, I'll run to your throne.
When I don't know what to think, I'll stand on your truth!
I know this has been long and I thank you for reading. It has been somewhat cathartic to write. I so appreciate your prayers and encouragement and love and concern. I know there are no words but I appreciate them anyway.
Please pray for his family and our center, especially tomorrow for the funeral. Thank you friends and family!
I'll miss you sweet Naftallly-bally!