The first rain of the year. That was today, January 25. 40 days without rain. Like Noah but opposite. And like Jesus if the rain was food. Everyone was happy: their upcoming pea harvest and newly planted bean plants needed the rain. “Thank God for the rain.” “This will nestle everything in.” “I’m going to save a bucket of this water because it gives special remedies.” Right. Everyone was happy except for Yani’s family. Her husband past away just two nights ago. I don’t usually get too sentimental – or maybe I do and don’t realize it – but I was really struck and saddened by his passing. I didn’t know Mintel or his family extraordinarily well, but I always saw them around, stopped by his home whenever I was in the area, and I knew that he was probably one of the two poorest families in Las Barreras. They are a Haitian family living on “rented” land, meaning that they work the land and give half of their crop earnings to the owner. Pretty raw deal in my eyes.
So I went to the “reso” tonight, a funeral gathering of sorts at Mintel’s house, and it was a very interesting experience. I arrived to find Yani in her thatch-roof and woven wood home sitting with her youngest son, Ibena. She seemed very grateful to see me and invited me to sit. A bunch of Dominican neighbors had gathered and were outside near the fire. As I sat we exchanged a few words in Haitian Kreyol / Spanish about how horrible her husband’s death was and how he had been in bed for 15 days with a fever. They never thought he’d just die like that, but on the day they finally sent him down the mountain to the doctor he passed away. She was then talking about how he hadn’t eaten for 5 days before he died, and that since he wasn’t eating she wouldn’t either. Therefore, it’d been 8 days since Yani had eaten a meal. She looked thin. Her devotion to her husband was moving, and it deepened as she crawled onto her bed and started wailing and crying out his name. Her 7 year old son, Ibena, soon started crying too and I was swept with emotion and the desire to wrap him up in my arms and comfort him. Soon a few friends told her she shouldn’t wail like that and then took her son on her lap and they cried together. Death is a horrible, horrible thing. Especially for this family. Throughout the whole ordeal I gazed around their home and took an inventory of what I saw. Clothing, a large stick bed, a homemade horse seat, some tin cans, a bucket of water and some trinkets. Everything that Mintel, Yani and her four children owned couldn’t have been worth more than $50. After all the crying and comforting her son all Yani could say to me through her tears was that she didn’t even have coffee for all the guests. Wow, really? I think we might have some bigger things to think about here: how are we going to find food for tomorrow? Should we go back to Haiti to be with our family? But no, the coffee is what matters.
At a “reso”, the family is generally responsible for feeding and entertaining the guests. This seems real backwards to me, but I think it is an effort to enforce the distraction coping mechanism. At this point I left the house and sat around the fire with 15 community members who were laughing and chatting casually. I guess that is just how these things go. Death is not as huge of a thing here I don’t think. After hearing about Mintel , several people, including my host dad, simply said “well, I guess it was his time” or “what’s done is done”. What I got from the community was the basic sense that “well, he’s dead, nothing we can really do now.”
Please pray for Yani and her children. And I want to thank God for the blessings he has given me in my life, and thank you all for the blessings you are to me as well. My family, my beautiful girlfriend, my wonderfully caring friends, my life.