Today we buried Baby Solomon- By Janine Maxwell

This week Solomon died.  He died from complications as a result of Stage 4 AIDS, which included liver and kidney failure, bi-lateral pneumonia, lactic acidation and a myriad of other things that I can’t begin to understand. He was on a ventilator, had blood coming out of his nose and mouth from his lungs which were bleeding internally and he was cold due to poor blood circulation.  He did not die a painless death, but he is now pain free.

Last Tuesday a little baby died who was to come and live at the El Roi Baby Home (see last week’s blog).  I had the sad experience of watching a Grandmother scrounge around a carpenters shop looking for scrap pieces of wood for him to make a very inexpensive coffin.  Last week was like a Shakespearean foreshadowing that we read about in literature class.  I would never have known that only a week later I would be saying goodbye to one of our own babies and looking for a coffin for him.  Last week we were able to provide $35 to the Grandmother to buy a decent coffin.  This week Mark Klee literally cut the back off a beautiful bookshelf that he had just hand-made for his wife Jamie and used it to make the most beautiful coffin that one could hope for.  Why? Because it was just the right size, and he could always make Jamie a new bookshelf.  This was more important.

Solomon was almost 17-months old and weighed 18 pounds.  He only recently got his first teeth.  He never crawled, never walked and was just starting to sit on his own. He was severely malnourished and AIDS was ravishing his tiny body. But he had the smile of an angel.  Solomon was living at the El Roi Baby Home under our care because he was sickly and his mother was unable to care for him and begged the hospital for assistance. Our hope and goal was that once he was stable and strong that he would be able to go back and live with his mother and brother, so Tibuyile moved to the Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz at the beginning of this month and has been working as a Khutsala Artisan.   This is a very unique situation and the only one of its kind at El Roi. Typically we only accept abandoned babies, but we were trying to keep Solomon from being abandoned, while helping to stabilize the family.

Death and funerals are complicated here. It seems that no one cares when a child is sick and dying, but everyone has an opinion as to what should happen once the child is dead. (I could pull out a giant soap-box here, but out of respect for Solomon and his beautiful mother Tibuyile, I will reserve that rant for another day). It was Tibuyile’s wish to have Solomon buried on Project Canaan, after many tears, conversations, prayers, meetings with the Chief, police and Social Welfare it was agreed that we could honor her request. She was not welcomed at her home to bury the child and Solomon’s father’s family wanted nothing to do with him.  So we welcomed the opportunity to give him a resting place where his mother could visit.

Denis and his team cleared an area in the trees right next to the chapel and it is now called “Emathune aSolomon” or in English “Solomon’s Cemetery”.  We knew that the day would come that we would have a funeral on the farm, but hoped that it would be many years from now.  Now we have a place, and I plan to be buried in Solomon’s Cemetery when that day comes.  Some of our long-term volunteers gave funds for beautiful pink bougainvillea’s vines that were planted on Saturday and we found some whimsical butterflies to bring warmth to the trees.

Tibuyile’s pastor came from town and resided over the ceremony.  The small body was picked up from town at 5AM and brought out to the chapel.  We were told that they would open the coffin for all to see the baby, but for some reason they didn’t do that today.  I will say that they don’t embalm bodies here, and he passed away early Thursday morning.  We did have to pay an extra $15 to have his little body washed.

After the praying and singing was finished the pastor lead us all to the burial ground.  The tiny coffin was placed down in to a deep hole and laid on a grass mat made by a woman from the Project Canaan community.  Two men jumped down in to the hole and the coffin was passed down in to them.  After placing a grass mat over the top, and putting some of Solomon’s clothing in with him, they started to shovel the dirt in on top. They held a shovel full of dirt for Tibyule so that she could throw a handful on top of the coffin and then the men took turns shoveling the dirt to fill the grave. After a few feet of dirt someone would jump back in and pack it down by foot.  In the end stones were laid on top and Solomon was laid to rest.

Death is such a big part of life, but for some reason death seems raw and “in your face” here.  Tibuyile buried another child, about the same age as Solomon, only a couple of years ago.  Similar illness, similar death, but back then she didn’t have a job or supporting family so her baby was held up in the morgue for 30 days while she begged and scraped for enough money to pay for the death certificate, the washing, the coffin and the public graveyard because there was conflict in the family and they didn’t want the baby buried at her home.  This time was different.  The pain of losing a child still rips at the heart of a mother and the memory of the child will never leave her mind, but today, she stood with her new family, her new friends and I believe she saw Jesus in a very new way.

I am now heading to the airport to fly to Taiwan.  I will see Chloe on Monday and Skype Spencer with high-speed internet.  I can’t wait to see my children and hold at least one of them.  I am thankful for their health and their lives.  It is hard to live with a foot in two different worlds (1st world and 3rd world), but I pray daily that He will continue to guide me and strengthen me so that I can continue to serve Him, even on the darkest of days.

Isaiah 35

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Live from Swaziland … Dance Solomon dance!

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Having a Heart for Africa touches lives of orphans- By Lu Ann Franklin Times Correspondant

October 07, 2013 6:45 pm  •  Lu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent

MUNSTER | In the small southern African kingdom of Swaziland, children struggle to feed and shelter their younger siblings after the deaths of their fathers and mothers from HIV/AIDS.
Some youngsters sell themselves to men to survive. Other orphaned babies and young children are abandoned in fields, along the road or in hovels they once called home, left to die unless someone besides a predator finds them.
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