Moussa passed away this morning. As I look at this picture it is hard for me to believe that the child I carried to the morgue this morning is the same child. Oh how he had wasted away to nothing.
When I came in this morning he was already in agonal breathing so I knew it wouldn't be long. I sat with him for a long time. Though he was unconscious, when I said his name and told him I was there, he grunted. I really believe he knew I was there. I laid down on the floor beside him (as for the last few days the ground was his place of choice to lay) and gently rubbed his head. The poor thing had suffered so much and the end was in sight. As I mentioned before he had asked me to go to church. I wasn't able to fulfill that wish to my regret but as I was thinking of that this morning I started to sing some of the few songs I know in Bambara. His grandmother joined in and we serenaded him for the last 10 minutes of his life. The last song we sang right before he passed says,
An taato file san fe, We are going to heaven
An ka so nyuman de be yen. Our beautiful home is there
Matigi tarra an nye fe God has gone before us.
An bee be taa sigi a fe. We all will go sit next to Him.
How fitting to sing this as he left this world and I believe he was welcomed into heaven by a great chorus. It is humbling to sit with someone, especially a child, as they leave this world. It was not a moment I will soon forget. As awful as it was, it was a privilege to get to be with him and his grandmother at such an intimate time.
I love Malian culture but one thing that I cannot understand is how they deal with grief. I am not saying it is wrong, it is just completely different than how my culture would handle it. I was the only one crying when he died. Our nurses looked at me like I was crazy. I cried as we wrapped his body and carried him to the morgue. Though he was only skin and bones the load was unbearably heavy. I hate carrying dead children.
As I walked away, still trying to compose myself, a patient met me at my door. How I longed to go in the office and cry a bit on my own, but someone was there. And with that, the day went on. The fact that Moussa had just died was a mute point. Malians have an incredible capacity to deal with grief. God's will, they say, and continue to move forward. It may as well be the will of God but it stinks and hurts nonetheless. It is on these days that I feel like a fish out of water here, unable to comprehend and follow suit in their behavior. I want to scream, "A child just died! Don't you understand? We cannot move on right now. We need to sit and mourn. A child, a young, precious child died. I cannot act like nothing happened." But alas, this is not my home or my culture, so I try to respect their desires as much as possible.
I am thankful for having known Moussa and seen his sweet smile that lit up the room. Though at times he was a very trying patient for me, he was always sweet and undeniably cute.
To all who knew him, I think he will be forever remembered with his big smile sporting his pinstriped suit (see here).