Monday, July 26, 2004


On Friday, Jaime and I went to visit Oom Dhoha.  I've mentioned her before, I think in an email.  Her husband of many years died during the night on Tuesday night after a long struggle with Alzheimers, or something like it.  In Islam, the body is supposed to be buried within 24 hours of death, so Abu Dhoha was buried in typical Sunni style on Wednesday.  The custom here is that men and women grieve seperately.  On the first and/or second days after the death, you're supposed to stop by for 30-45 minutes.  If you wait until the 3rd day, then you're expected to stay until after lunch.  Jaime and I weren't able to go on either the first or second day, so we went on the third day, hoping to go at a time when it wouldn't be expected that we stay for lunch, but Oom Dhoha insisted that we stay.  On the third day in the morning, a man "reads" from the Qur'an - the Muslim holy book.  The "reading" was broadcast to the women's room over a loudspeaker.  (And I'm putting quotes around "read" because he sings it, but not to a specific melody.)  At certain times, apparently he says something that means that they should pray for a minute, so the whole room gets quiet.  At other times, apparently he says that they should cry because sometimes several women in the room just randomly broke down in sobs - at the same time.  But in between the prayers and the sobs, it's pretty much just like any funeral that you or I would be used to.  The people sit there, looking glum, and talking pretty much about everything under the sun except for the person who died (after the necessary condolences).  One set of ladies was admiring the ring of a lady nearby.  Oom Dhoha was asking me about how the English school was going, and how my trip had been.  There were the standard "that person is related to this person through a third-cousin on her mother's side."  And after lunch, he started up with his "reading" again, except it wasn't just Qur'anic, there were other things mixed in too.

But mostly what struck me was the emptiness of it.  When someone is a believer, you have the hope of heaven awaiting...but I could offer no platitudes that he's now in a better place to someone I believe has died without knowing Him.  I could find comfort for Oom Dhoha in that her daughters were all there to comfort her, and in that now she's freed from the overwhelming burden of caring for her husband, but no comfort for her or her daughters about his new home.

The only hope is that, through this loss, Oom Dhoha, her four daughters, their husbands, and their children will come to know Him.

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