Yesterday, we found out that one of my fellow staff members here, and very dear friend, lost her father. It was unexpected and traumatic for her, as she had not seen him since he left their family when she was only 8 years old. She had plans to find him and reestablish connection with him so it was even more painful for her to hear the news.
I went with her and several others to attend the burial. It was my first time to attend a funeral here. We traveled quite a distance out of Arua, to their village where a big crowd was gathered. When we arrived, they began singing, dancing and playing the drums as we each took our turn to view the body. Then we sat and a number of people spoke in the local language, Lugbara.
The women continued to sing as they took the body to a closed off room for the family members to mourn. They wailed and cried. In another corner of the compound women were cooking the meal required by the mourning family to provide for everyone. In still another corner of the compound, was the freshly dug grave.
As the rain threatened to come, they sped up the burial and people gathered around to watch the coffin being lowered into the ground. It was an emotional day, but at the end of it, once back in Arua, all of us gathered around our sister and talked and laughed and processed.
Yesterday, as we traveled back through the villages and to Arua, I felt like I belonged in Africa. I have cried with my friends, laughed with my friends, struggled through things with them and they with me. We are family. It didn't make any difference that I was the only white-skinned person there at the funeral. I am part of this family, and I really do feel like this is home. I love them, cherish them and hope with them for the very best and I know they feel the same for me.