The Daughters of Jesus of Daoukro along with the school staff help a family to live the death of their child in a Christian way.
On a Sunday afternoon, like a bolt from the blue, for the community – especially for our 2 sisters engaged at the school: Maël, 5 years old, after 2 days in hospital just leaves us. At the hospital, were they able to diagnose the real problem? Useless to ask questions… we must now face reality.
The bus driver picks up headmaster, teachers and Sisters for a visit to the mother and all the family. There’s already lots of people present. After a few long and very emotional minutes we pray with them; the mother and her relatives are Christian. Of course the child was not baptized. (Here in this corner of Africa it’s only after 3 years of catechesis that children are baptized) but already Maël took part in school prayer in a very receptive way.
As we were ready to leave the father told us: “Tomorrow we will bury him very early”. What! You will let him go just like that? You are Christians and he himself used to pray with us! We will come; we will prepare something; we will also contact the priest. Tomorrow we will be there.
At approximately 9 o’clock a phone call: “The time has come – the family is ready.”
We had prepared a few texts; the priest too. Many moms were there with their baby in their arms or on their backs. What grief for the parents!
In the presence of the body wrapped up in a mat and covered with a rug, our prayer is simple but intense. Here is the text – altered somewhat and read by Sr. Irene, the headmistress (the priest had presented her saying that teachers are a second mother for children!)
My child, my treasure, you, the flesh of my flesh that I bore, gave birth to, nourished, rocked, cared for, held your hand in good and bad times…
My child, my love, now transfigured in light, I believe that you did not lose anything of all that makes of you a unique being.
You are irreplaceable before God, for your father and mother. My child, my darling, we want to remember the picture of happy days when your smile lit up your face.
My child born again today, your new presence arises in our hearts like the springtime sun that brightens and drives away the darkness of despair which threatened us.
My child, my angel, we dare pray to you! Are you not, from now on, nearer to the burning love of the heart of God?
We ask you to help us not tire ourselves trying to keep you in a past that is no more.
My beloved child, since you have become our elder in this long ascension towards God, take us by the hand so that we may have the strength to go further; give us the courage to go beyond ourselves to attain that brilliant joy where you preceded us.
My child, we miss your smile but we believe that your love for us is immortal.
Then, after the blessing of the body, we leave for the cemetery (without the mother as is the custom here). Maël as well as his parents were accompanied until the end by prayer. In the afternoon we paid another visit to the family. Everything went well and they are very grateful; however, some members of the family suggested to offer sacrifices…. Syncretism is never far away. The priest accompanying us said that he would return in the evening to bless every part of the house so as to finish as Christians what we began as Christians.
The school and the community acted as a bridge between tradition and the Church… a small step in the evangelisation of cultures; a tiny step in taking into consideration every person, even a child. And during this Year of Mercy, God’s compassion was expressed towards a stricken family!
God only knows the many expressions of gratitude that took place during the next few days and the reflections from other parents with regards to the attitude of all the members of the educative community.