I was standing in the hallway of our clinic one day this week, chatting with my staff. We were about to go and have a training. Suddenly we heard a chilling scream from outside. “Someone must have died,” one of our nurses said. We went outside to find a huge crowd gathered outside the emergency room. The people were crying out highly and loudly, almost like singing – a characteristic sound for mourning in this area.
From the crowd we quickly heard fragments of what had happened. A young girl was brought in to the emergency room. She had been found lifeless on the floor in her home. Someone said she had been sick for a while. I saw our expatriate nurse come out from the emergency room and approached him. He said there was nothing they could do. She was dead when they brought her in.
We stood there watching the mourning, crying crowd. Then all of a sudden the cries and screams escalated. They were earsplitting. The girl’s family members started jumping up and down, in deep, deep distress. We understood that the girl’s body was being brought out now. I stood near the pavement leading to the emergency room. I saw the girl’s closest family members coming out towards me, crying and pushing a hospital bed where the girl was lying. The girl’s mother ran by the bed, holding her daughters face, screaming from the roots of her heart.
I stood paralyzed. It is rare to witness such deep, pure pain. The family passed me with the bed. I saw the girl’s face. A beautiful, peaceful face. She looked like she was only sleeping.
The family lifted the girl into their vehicle, accompanied by their chanting cries. I saw the girl’s little sister jump and shudder, like the pain was so great it had no space in her body and had tried to force its way out.
Next, the family would start the wake, where family members and friends sit by the girl’s side day and night. Telling stories about the girl. Holding her hands. Crying, even laughing at some moments.
I couldn’t help but think about deaths and funerals in my own country. Deaths are treated as a quite ’clinical’ matter. The body of the deceased is taken quickly to a morgue and later discreetly to the funeral home. The funerals are held with closed caskets. We cry silently into our handkerchiefs.
Despite all the immense pain and sorrow I saw around me on the hospital lawn, I felt it was a healthy way of grieving. Crying and shouting out the pain. Letting it out, showing the world how much it hurts. Seeking comfort in loved ones and in physical nearness. Helping each other live through the loss. Celebrating her life.