The family helped Katey make arrangements for a small casket and discussed with him the program for the funeral. In Congo, the ceremony is secondary to the display of grief. Many funerals last days, people come from all over to openly sob with the family, and the family is expected to feed the guests during that time. To control this, Katey decided to restrict the funeral wailing to less than one day. The family would bury Baby Cathy the next morning.
Alessandra accompanied the Carmichael family to the home of Katey and Matshingi. The wailing could be heard once they entered the neighborhood. Matshingi was bouncing up and down sobbing and didn’t stop to receive her guests. Her singsong phrase was asking God why He took her daughter. Cathy and Alessandra attempted to hug Matshingi, but she wouldn’t leave her customary grief.
A temporary shelter of palm fronds surrounded a small bamboo bed with the body of Baby Cathy. The thought of sitting next to a dead child for an extended period of time was shocking to the four women from America.
“Mom, is she really dead?” Jenny asked. “Baby Cathy just looks like she’s sleeping.”
“She’s dead, honey, not just sleeping. But Jesus actually called death ‘sleep.’ Our bodies fall asleep here and our souls wake up in heaven. Her spirit is alive with Jesus.”
Cathy pulled out a beautiful dress, once Jenny’s, and asked one of the ladies to dress the body.
Mourning is different in different cultures, but the hope of eternity in heaven is a universal hope. When Jesus lost His friend, Lazarus, He claimed that His friend was sleeping. That He needed to wake him. For the believer, death has lost the sting, because it was absorbed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The verse clarified, “Howbeit Jesus spoke of his death; but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’” (John 11: 13,14)
Imagine the simplicity of a death of falling asleep on earth and waking in heaven by a touch from Jesus. We have so much hope, even in seasons of our deepest grief. Let’s embrace our hope of eternal life.