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Saturday, May 01, 2010

death stalks

We buried Byaruhanga William today, a 33-year old teacher who grew up as a World-Harvest-Mission-Kid.  He was buddies with the Herron kids, his older brother worked for the Learys, he became a disciple of Rick's and was supported by him for teacher's college, as well as the Fillyaws and Pat and others.  His peers included Kawa Vincent and Kataramu Francis, who also became teachers, and the younger Ndiyezika and Ntunguwa, our boys.  These were the kids who, out of curiosity or desperation or courage or spunk, attached themselves to the foreigners, for better or for worse.  For Byarurhanga, the better prevailed.  He made a profession of faith and joined the church at age 12, was a quiet and pleasant and faithful man, married to only one wife, teaching in a crowded and needy public school.  . . .  while others in his family died of AIDS or became crippled by alcoholism and abuse.  Probably a thousand people attended his burial today, a measure of the community sense of sorrow and loss.  But also a picture of how investment in one life can profoundly affect many others.  It was a many-hour ceremony with some hopeful moments, my heavy heart lifted somewhat by the faith of others who spoke of seeing Byaruhanga healed and happy in Heaven, or of the fact that when God calls He is calling us home, and there is no better place to go.  There were also powerfully sad moments, particularly when his friend Vincent sobbed through his speech, the entire crowd with a gasping sigh as he described the dying Byaruhanga asking him to care for his children.  The plight of orphans being a primal fear in this high-mortality society.  

For us the day was excruciating in its needless waste of a life.  Byaruhanga died of Bundibugyo.  He had a benign conjunctival problem and while waiting for the eye specialists to whom we had referred him to come next month, someone else prescribed a pain medicine with a high incidence of toxic ulcer-inducing side effects.  By the time he called Ndiyezika on his third day of taking it, and Ndiyezika brought him to Scott, he was in retrospect in the process of perforating through his stomach.  His exam was not as impressive as his own sense of pain and impending doom, but enough for Scott to send him to see the surgeon, and request an xray.  If the xray machine had been functional, if the surgeon had decided to operate sooner, if the critical care in the operating room was better, if his blood type had been available . . .as an otherwise very healthy young man he should have pulled through.  But in the real world of Bundibugyo where the system is overloaded and barely a step ahead of collapse (including us), he got too little too late.  And he died.

This is the third burial we've been to of long-term friends and acquaintances in the last few weeks.  None of the three men would have died in even a mediocre medical center in the States.  The injustice of the disparity in care makes us cry out:  how long, oh Lord?  And the targeting of a young teacher like this, or a young doctor like Jonah, seems tragically unfair to a society which needs their gifts.  I can not explain why God allowed them to show such promise and then be taken away decades before their three-score-and-ten.  And I don't expect to see the equation balanced, the wrong made right, in this life.  Death stalks, surreptitious.  A wounded enemy can be the most dangerous.  We believe in death's final defeat, but in the interim life has lost some important battles of late.

1 comment:

Lyds said...

So sad to hear this news, especially when I am half way around the world. I wish I could be there to grieve with his family and the community as he was such a good friend of Luke and I's. He and Ntugua were Luke and I's best friends growing up there. Please send my love to his family and tell them I grieve with them and have much sorrow over his death. Tears are flowing at this very moment for his loss, my only consolation is that I imagine him rejoicing in Heaven with my Mom and Jonah (and all the others who have gone before him).
Its so hard to hear stories like this when I live and work daily in a hospital where he could have been treated and his life spared. And I can only imagine how much of a loss he is to you and the Bundibugyo community because he went against the culture there and followed the gospel.
I am praying for his family and the community at large.