Nate's question echoed the thought that was on everyone's mind day before yesterday. I struggled to find the answer as Nate stood there, arms around his daddy who was sobbing. Nate struggled to keep back his own tears. Hetee had tried so hard to be strong but after so much pressure, you just cave in.
Today was, no doubt, one of the hardest days of my life. When my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I wanted nothing more than to crawl under the covers and wish the day away. But, we were due at the morgue to pick up the tiny white coffin and bring baby Yalalt's body to its final resting place. As difficult as the task at hand seemed, I wasn't about to let Enkhmaa and Bogi go through that final goodbye without standing by their side.
We gathered outside the morgue, family, friends and church members-- a crowd of about 40 people-- and waited for the doors to open. In Mongolia, there are no funeral homes or services to help the families during their time of loss. It was up to the church today to help as much as we could.
We filed into the small room in the morgue and circled the coffin clockwise, in Mongolian fashion. It was open and we could see a small portion of his face, mostly just his mouth as the rest of his face and body was swaddled. Enkhmaa was inconsolable and I had to fight the urge to run away. She touched his cheek and then crumpled to the floor. Hetee another pastor friend carried her out.
The graveyard is a ways out of town. The cars follow the car with the coffin in single file, slowly, with caution lights blinking. Enkhmaa rode with us while Bogi accompanied the coffin in a micro bus.
Enkhmaa sobbed and we prayed for the ability to hold it together and minister to her. Hetee spoke of heaven and she quieted, listening with a blank look in her eyes. We hummed and sang Amazing Grace, and other songs to bring comfort. I assured her, again, that Yalalt was now in a place where he no longer suffered pain or fear, but he had been given a new body and we would all see him again one day.
That was the hope we had that her unsaved relatives didn't understand. They were hopeless and saw no end to their own suffering, and that's why they grieved so openly and loudly. We were sad and desperate but not hopeless, like they were. We are saddened at the thought that we will not see his face this side of heaven. We are desperate that we will not be able to kiss and smell his hair and his breath (smelling is all important to Mongolians) on this earth again. It leaves a void but we know that it is temporary. We will be comforted. Our tears will be wiped away. What a promise of hope!
We buried baby Yalalt today. I think I buried a piece of my heart with him. Our family has been changed by Yalalt's life and early passing on to heaven. Our tones and gazes are softer. We reach out to touch and hug one another with the a fresh realization that life is a vapor. Each touch could be the last. We never know how long our children will be ours. It's a lesson to me, to not take their precious lives for granted.
Today, Nate wandered further than usual on his bike and Hetee and I set out to look for him. As we separated to search, I was filled with panic. I fought the urge to sob as I rounded the corner by the university in front of our house. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Hetee running across a nearby field and I felt sick to my stomach as I imagined the possibilities. On any other day, I probably would have been very level headed about the whole thing, but on a day like today, I couldn't block the awful images going through my mind.
As it turns out, Nate was perfectly fine. He and his friend just thought it would be fun to test the boundaries. When he saw me, crying and really mad, he knew it was a bad idea.
Thank you to those of you who are praying and giving to help Enkhmaa and Bogi move. Please continue to pray for me, too. After spending 3 days with the grieving parents, I can still hear Enkhmaa's wails when I close my eyes at night. It's hard to sleep. No matter how hard I try, I keep imagining myself in her situation. It's not on purpose, it just happens. So prayers for a sound mind are much appreciated.
God bless you all and thanks for listening.