Blessed are those who mourn…

The sign for all ....someone from this household has died.
The sign for all ….someone from this household has died.

Yesterday I wrote about friendship and today that story continues…though it is through a different relationship. Howard (a Guatemala mission team member of many years) emailed me this morning and asked that I visit someone here in Guatemala whose mother had just died.  Beatriz is known to many who have been coming here for so long.  Howard’s request changed the course of the day and the experience has left me with my heart wide open and my spirit full of gratitude.

We went to the community where Beatriz lives and asked in the neighborhood. The first man we asked knew exactly where to go so he hoped in the car with us. We pulled up to a house with a large black bow fixed to the front – a clear sign of mourning.  There are two periods of specific mourning and ritual in the Catholic tradition and as it turns out this is the day before the first period of “9 days” are complete.  Since her mother’s death, 8 days ago, Beatriz and her sister, father and other family have been in much grief.  The funeral and cemetery services are complete. An altar has been set up in the home and today everyone will come (300-400 people) to pay their respects and to eat a traditional meal.  After the 9 days are complete, another 40 day period of mourning is observed with prayer, wearing black and reflecting.  This is the tradition.

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The altar of Alba Mercedes…the mother of Beatriz

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Friends gathered to cook all day…here they are making tortillias
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Food cooking for the 1pm meal. We ate with them before leaving

Beatriz was glad to see us and I shared the greetings, love and prayers of Howard.  She shared stories of her mom and life.  She talked about the friendships and sponsorships of people in the USA who have come with mission teams for years; people who have sponsored her education and the education of her sister’s children.  These ties run deep and wide.  It is humbling to hear her speak of the people who have so deeply touched her life.

Friends have come to cook the food which will be served at 1pm and then again a special meal (not left-overs) will be served in the evening. The love and care of friends and family when someone transitions from earth is beautiful.

food being prepared with love and comfort
food being prepared with love and comfort

I was not expecting what happened next.  As Beatriz was telling the stories of the past 8 days she also shared that her cousin died unexpectedly yesterday.  He was 17. A fever…an illness…a death.  As she was showing me around and introducing us to the friends cooking the meal, she asked if I wanted to go see her cousin.  I said yes.

The home was just down the path and when we arrived the area was full. Many children and youth were standing shoulder to shoulder in the crowd. People were spilling out everywhere and then I noticed the casket in a room. We went in.  In a matter of seconds I found myself standing at the casket of a 17 year old Guatemalan teenager and his mother was at my side crying tears that pierced my heart.  It was only a few more seconds until I could feel that same sense of grief as we once stood over my brother’s casket crying giant tears…when he was 16 years old.  Death strikes – hearts break open and all the love in the world seems unable to console.  But it does.  Somehow in that horrific pain of ripping away – there is grace enough just to breath until the next moment. And really, that is what it is …just getting from this breath to the next breath…and repeat until you can find space for something else.

I don’t know why God would allow me the privilege to visit Beatriz today – to give her love from friends far away. I don’t know why I would be allowed to stand with a grieving mother at her son’s casket in a foreign country where the only language I could offer her was tears.   But after some moments passed I remembered that I did have something to say.  (Thank God for translators).  “When my brother was 16 he died in an accident. It broke my mother’s heart. It broke my heart too.  What I want to tell you is that you are going to be able to live and even have joy again…but for now, let the strength of your family and friends carry you for as long as you need them.”

The kingdom of God is rich. It is rich in our sorrow as well as our celebration. It is rich in our weakness as well as our strength.  I am blessed to encounter many riches of the Spirit, and usually in the most ordinary of days.  And with every encounter something changes deep within my soul.  It is a good change; it is a change that transforms me.   Let it be.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  –  Matthew 5:4

Me with Beatriz, her father, neice, sister and her neice's boyfriend
Me with Beatriz, her father, niece, sister and her niece’s boyfriend

5 thoughts on “Blessed are those who mourn…

  • As I revisited with you that scene of long ago…. I heard again…deep in my soul…. The answer to a prayer I prayed in those early morning hours…… ‘Please , please don’t let this be wasted…I can bear it if only it won’t be wasted’….. Again God has shown us…. In the Kingdom of God…..nothing is wasted….. I hold this dear, dear Mother in my heart and share her tears…..

    Thank you for sharing……God is giving all of us so much thru your presence there.

    I love you!
    Mom

  • Bless you, Vona, for not only being the hands and feet of Christ but the hands and feet of all of us who have grown to love Beatriz, Alba and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ of San Antonio Barrio Dos. I am SO grateful and thankful that you could be a part of this mourning for us all.

  • Oh Vona , thank you for sharing thiese tender divine appointments . I’m in awe of Gods sovereignty in placement of where you are sharing grief & hope … In a way that only y💗u could have done on this day .🙏

  • We have recently had a series of sermons on relationships. One was about how to minister to people at a time of loss. Job 2:11-13 . His friends sat with him SEVEN days WITHOUT WORDS–because they knew his grief was too great for words. Our presence (and tears) are all we have to give at a time like this. I am glad this family had your presence.

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