The wails began at 9:30 this morning while Aaron was working with Ezekiel in Karumalun, and the kids and I knew that our friend Barnabas had died. Yesterday morning was the first time we learned that he wasn't doing well. He had stopped eating and drinking, and we knew that he wouldn't last very long. We took down some lelenga/cassava pudding and spent a little bit of time with the family after church. Elderly people die quietly at home here in the village, and death isn't sanitized.
When I finished read-aloud, I went down to spend a couple of hours with the women from different villages who had gathered inside the house around the body. We would be visiting and laughing about some funny story, then all of the sudden the ladies would scoot back against the walls to make space for somebody new, and the wailing would start all over again. The Lavukal excel at allowing grief. In addition to the wailing as an external sign of grief, some family members will grow their hair out for up to a year and then go through a hair cutting ceremony to end their time of grief.
One of my friends asked about our American customs, and I told her that often people are expected back at work immediately following the funeral, but here the whole family sticks around for a week before returning home. When I mentioned how much I appreciated the Lavukal's awareness of the grief process, my spunky friend Anna from another village mentioned that she thought it was boring and everlasting long!