Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Funeral

We were supposed to take James and his family out to their island today to hunt coconut crab, but the wind was too high last night and we were too tired for yesterday. We thought we were sleeping in, but James called about 6:30 saying, "See the plane landing. It is bringing passengers and food for the funeral for my Auntie in Aur, Aur this afternoon. Could you bring my family and the three ladies form the plane to Aur for it. And the few packages?"

"Sure." I said. I know how the Marshall ese count by now, so was not surprised at the 24 people on the boat or the 'freight'. 15 each of the 25 pound boxes of "quarter-legs" (the hind quarter of a chicken), paper plates, cups, kool-aid, instant coffee, creamer, sugar, flour, and various boxes required for the day.

So we take off for Aur and naturally it rains briefly a couple of times on the way. We had tarps for the freight and the people oll of which were on deck.

She died yesterday morning and the burial is to be at 3:00 today because there is no embalming on the outer islands. The Iroj from Airik died 2 weeks ago in Majuro and the ship came through Aur and Tobal 3 days ago on his way to his burial. They do embalm in Majuro.

About 4:30 we gather in the yard of the family. The grave is dug beside others next to the back door. clean beach sand is spread all around the back of the house. Everyone in the village plus all the family from Majuro and Tobal are seated around the neighborhood. Dogs and kids playing everywhere. A couple of boys are practicing for their eventuality on the grave-stone next to the open grave. No one says a word to them. About 5:00 all the male government employees form up in the street one house down. The 4 constables in uniform in front. Then they march up to and in the front door. A few minutes later, the constables carry the coffin out the front door and around to the grave in the back. And set it beside the grave on a plastic tarp. The Mayor etc. file out the rear and sit in chairs lined up in the yard facing the grave, basically with their backs to everyone except the husband and the oldest son. The minister is one of the men. 5 or 6 of the men give speeches apparently discussing the life of the lady. Next the constables begin nailing the top on the coffin, it was closed so I didn't realize it wasn't nailed yet. The husband leans on the corner of the coffin saying his last goodbye's then ropes are placed under the ends. It is lowered into the grave as a song is sung in Marshallese. We recognize the tune as "When we gather at the river". As the constables started filling in the dirt, the family ladies began serving the chicken, donuts and kool-aid we had brought.

It was too late to make it back to Tobal and anchor before dark, so we spent the night there. James and Anowgo stayed onshore with her sister.

They gave us more bananas, papayas, breadfruit and coconuts.

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