Thursday, September 16, 2010

Madame Stephen's Funeral Part 2 (and my first Sunday at Gramothe Church)

If you missed the first part you can read it here.

The day of Madame Stephen's funeral was a long one. We loaded the truck with all the flowers, mugs, food, and other things around 8am on Sunday morning. Most of the truck bed was full of flowers. The other part had about 15 boxes of mugs. It was a very precarious load. Thankfully I rode in the cab with Willem and Barry. Two Haitians were given the job of riding in the back to make sure the mugs didn't fall on the flowers. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when we made it to the top.

During Sunday school I watered all the flowers and moved them to the cafeteria area. I also helped move some other things. Eventually it was time for church. I sat with Barry, who tricked me at one point during the service. One of the elders was introducing the pastor who was going to speak, but he kept looking in our direction. Barry leaned over and said, "Their talking about you." I was a little confused because Barry had already told me he didn't understand much Creole. Then before I had time to think about it, he said, "Stand up." I was freaking out and said, "They want me to stand up?!?!?!" and I started to stand up. Barry grabbed my arm and just started laughing. I'm already planning something for when he comes back in 2 weeks.

After church there was a lot of waiting around. Because the funeral was only an hour and half after church, we just stayed in Gramothe. I helped a lady named Mimos wash all the mugs for the funeral dinner. I also talked to Barry and Stephen (the missionaries' son) quite a bit. We waited around for the funeral home to bring Madame Stephen's body, and watched people as they gathered for the funeral. There were likely over 500 people at the service.

About a half hour before the service started people started going into the sanctuary. The casket was open, and many were saying their last goodbyes. Beth didn't want to go into the sanctuary until she had to, so we all waited outside until the pastor started the service. I am glad we didn't go in early. Every bench had about 3 more people than any American crowd would accommodate. The choir seating on stage was full, the walls were lined and even the aisles were full of people. We ended up standing against a wall, which was fine with me because I could see everything that happened.

The service started with a congregational hymn, which sounded familiar to me but I didn't know it. Then there was a prayer, a short piece from Barry on behalf of all Americans and Canadians, a song from the kids, the 23rd Psalm, two songs from the choir, a history of Madame Stephen's life from her youngest brother, two songs from the men's choir, and a message from Willem. Then there were some words from her older brother, another congregational hymn, and finally the benediction. Madame Stephen's childhood pastor served as the MC for the service, so spoke breifly between everything.

Part of Haitian culture is that there is wailing at funerals. A lady who runs an orphanage near Willem and Beth's house told me there are even professional wailers who can be hired! Anyway, the wailing was VERY loud before the service and I was glad that we weren't in the sanctuary yet. During the service there was some wailing, but not a lot. The people were very attentive to those who spoke. Generally the only wailing was during songs. Willem asked someone to sing a short song just before he spoke. I think it was a song that was meaningful to Madame Stephen. That's when the ladies let loose and the wailing really picked up. Two women ended up being carried out of the sanctuary because they were so out of control. When Willem took the mic again, he asked them to calm down and they did... until the end of the service. At the close of the service and as people were leaving there were a handful of women who were wailing their hearts out and mourning Madame Stephen's passing.  Overall, I'd say there weren't that many women wailing, just 10-15.

After the service most everyone went to the cemetery that's within walking distance to burry Madame Stephen. I did not follow them because I was busy transforming the sanctuary. Some men from the church moved the pews and we put 16 tables in the sanctuary. Then the youth group set the tables and prepared to serve a meal of pates (a small pastry filled with meat), bullion vyann poul (chicken soup), and soda. The people ended up coming back from the cemetery before we were finished setting the tables, so it was a little chaotic for a while. Eventually everyone got into a groove and we were able to serve everyone fairly quickly.

Overall, it was a very nice celebration of Madame Stephen's life.

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