The last week and half have been tough.
Community is important in Zambia and funerals are attended by everyone. It is a community event and everyone helps to mourn the dead. It is also a great way to meet friends and community and even experience a different denominational pastor preaching a funny or moving speech.
Violet got a motorcar for me as I could not walk anymore and I started to lighten up when the funeral turned into watching the community unfold after a burial. That’s when I saw Violet’s cousin from Lusaka take a chicken.
She is taking the chicken to Lusaka, Megha. The chicken no longer wants to be a village girl. It wants to live in the big city. When you go back to the biggest city in the world, I will also give you a chicken for you and Shawnie.
Yes, she knows my nicknames for my brothers.
Funerals are also for greetings. It is custom for one to greet everyone one by one. You say good morning to every person and shake their hands and ask their day and how their home was. It is not small talk. It is actual community catch-up. And when Violet was daydreaming and some older grandmothers tried to get her attention, one slapped her arm and got her to greet her after she said,
You’re not greeting me as if I am doing dirty things to your husband at night.
The grandmother stuck her tongue and my eyes popped almost out as Violet laughed so hard. At a funeral and speaking like this was common amongst the women but most especially with the oldest women. I was so surprised my mouth was open and the grandmother with a head full of white curls winked at me.
She helped me forget how much this week was hard on me. Funerals are common in my village. With the high rate of early and teen pregnancy and constant pregnancy, most deaths are mothers. Young mothers or first mothers. Or mothers having their seventh pregnancy or ninth miscarriage. This week was hard for me
The first funeral was for a twenty six year old mother of four. Two girls and twin boys of fourteen months. Infection of the new pregnancy caused her to bleed without stopping. She died as she went from a hospital in Lusaka and her body was sent up for the funeral. Her two daughters help fetch water for me and play games with my nephew. She was 26 and also in my women’s nutrition club. I cried.
Three days later, another woman passed. After a infection started on her C-section and she was referred from hospital to hospital, she died before she could get help. She left four kids with the oldest at 6. She was 24. One year older than me and the quietest girl I ever spent time with. So shy because she thought her English was never good and yet she came to my Saturday English classes with a baby on her back and a petite notebook writing down everything I wrote in chalk. She died. One year older than me and four more kids than I have and she died. I also cried.
The third funeral. Was the next day.
And it was mother of six who died during delivery. Violet needed help with the delivery as the nurse was on holiday and the mother was walking around trying to induce labor. She went into labor quickly only to fall unconscious. But constriction of blood and high blood pressure………………..
I walked almost eighteen kilometers to her home and then two kilometers to her gravesite. I cried.
Three mothers. Infections and delivery. Maternal deaths are so high in my village that it is getting hard for me. Hard for me to make friends with women my age knowing tomorrow I might say goodbye to one of them. It is getting hard to see them getting pregnant again. It is getting harder and harder to see them in a box leaving children in a community who would be taken care of totally by the mothers in the family than the father. It is hard to see the husband lost for words when he is only in his twenties and talks about how he imagined their old lives together as he cries over his wife’s grave. How parents thank people for coming so far to escort their daughters’ souls to their graves.
It is getting so hard to see in this part of the world, more mothers, younger than many back home, will never see their children grow up or to show them as in the case of my silent English student, that no matter how old or how busy, they can still learn.