Thursday, October 3, 2013

Final Musa Update

Musa died early Sunday morning. For the last two weeks, he hasn’t been doing well. He got another kidney infection, was in a lot of pain (suspected a sickle cell crisis which is often precipitated by infection) and wasn’t peeing, no matter how much medicine I gave him. I kept offering to have him admitted to the hospital because they would be able to manage his pain easier and he would be closely monitored. But he kept putting me off and settled for my daily visits to give him pain medicine injections and IV Lasix (to try  and make him urinate).

I had to go to Makeni on Tuesday for some custody stuff for Marie and ended up being delayed there until Friday. I called to check on him on Wed. and he didn’t sound great. I encouraged him to go to the hospital but when I called the next morning his mom told me that he was afraid to go if I wasn’t there. I pushed it and he started feeling badly enough that he finally agreed.

I got back Friday afternoon and immediately went to see him. He didn’t look well.  The next day was Saturday and I had to work. It was initially slow so I got to spend some time with him.  He wanted to go outside so we spread a mat for him and he and I went to sit outside so he could feel the sun on his face.  He was having a lot of trouble breathing but he started talking about Job (from the Bible).  We’d done a study about Job and his suffering and the following Sunday he’d gone to church with my friend Peter and they also preached about Job. I guess it stuck.  He said that Job suffered a lot but didn’t understand why.  He said he also didn’t understand why he had to suffer so much, but that he was trusting that God had a reason.  Somehow.  He then started quoting the twenty-third psalm.  As I write this I’m realizing that this was the last conversation I had with him.

Shortly after this I got a critical patient and was busy doing an emergency c-section.  Musa started seizing. He would seize and then go into his post ictal state (kind of unconscious---like a deep sleep). He would then wake up for a few hours but would seize again. His seizures were violent and at one point he broke off two of his teeth.  His faithful brother held the guard in his mouth for hours so he wouldn’t chomp down on his tongue.

After he seized he would wake up enough to make eye contact and I knew he saw me because he would do this little eyebrow raise that we always did to each other.  That night I went home for a couple hours but went back around 10pm. I wasn’t sure if he would die that night, but I knew I had to be there if he was going to.  At around 11:30 I laid down on one of the extra beds and dozed on and off until 1am. I heard his breathing change and sure enough, he’d started seizing again. After this one he never regained consciousness. 

It was painful to watch.  I honestly don’t know how his mother did it.  I was begging God to be merciful and take him home quickly.  His mother would leave periodically and his brother sent me out to encourage her if she was crying. At 1:30 I told her that he was sleeping. It was hard to watch him struggle for each breath like he was, but he wasn’t feeling pain. He wasn’t suffering. Shortly after that she took some of her things and went back to the house. I think she knew he was going soon. Sure enough, at 1:45am his breathing started to ease and he died.

At 2:30am I went back to my house to try and sleep. Musa’s family called me at 5am just to check on me and see if I’d stopped crying. I couldn’t believe that in the midst of their grief they were calling to see if I was ok.  Later that morning, around 8 I was getting ready to go down and check in at the hospital (I was supposed to work that day) when the family called to tell me they were waiting for me to do the burial preparations. Wait. What?!?! I have no idea what the appropriate stuff to do for a burial is. Why do they need me? I called my friend Peter and we went down to see the family.

I’d only been part of one burial here before.  This was a lot different because, as I came to realize after spending about 10 minutes in the house, instead of being the one to sympathize with the loss of the family, everyone was treating me as if I was one of the family that lost a child as well.  After the greeting formalities we all gathered in a circle and the Imam (who was also Musa’s grandfather) explained that they didn’t want to proceed in the burial plans without my approval and wanted to know if there were any special prayers or anything that I would want to do.  It was sweet that they wanted to show me that kind of respect, but I was quick to assure them that whatever they wanted to do, I was fine with.  I explained that I believed that because Musa had trusted Christ for his salvation, he was already in heaven and that my prayers were for those of us left behind who were in pain because of his absence. 

We stayed at the house for a few hours while they built a little house outside to wash the body. As they took his body out of the room to wash it, everyone stood up. I assumed it was out of respect, which it was. But Peter also explained that some people believe that if you don’t stand up when the body passes by, that you’ll be the next one to die.  Yikes.  

Periodically a new woman would come to the house and would start wailing.  People would allow her to cry for awhile and then would say “That’s enough. That’s enough.”  As we were all sitting around we started talking about Musa and sharing things about him that were nice, or made us laugh.  Some things are the same in any culture.

The burial was scheduled for 12 noon. We all met back at their house and they had a little service where they talked about Musa and his family. Then we headed for the burial site. Peter and I went ahead on his motorbike and watched as they carried the body towards us.  As they were coming, I realized that there were no women among them.  Islamic funerals don’t allow women to go to the burial site, so I stayed put and Peter joined the men to go to bury him. 

Afterwards we went back to the house where they women had been cooking up a storm and all sat around and ate rice.  We hung out for awhile and then I went back to my house to take a nice, long nap.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with Musa’s family this week. His father arrived the day after they buried him and they’re planning to do another memorial service in November. Yesterday the entire family came up to my house to “greet” me.  They just wanted to tell me that even though Musa’s gone now, they don’t want the relationship to end. At first, I thought they were talking about money, but Peter clarified and Musa’s mom said, “No, no! We’re not talking about money. I just want to be coming to greet you and I want you to be coming to greet me.”  It’s amazing to me how grief can bring people together.  My prayer is that I’ll continue to be able to love this family and that they will see Jesus!! 


  1. Heartbreaking. Oh Emily, I don't Know What To Say.

    I'm Sorry And Thank You. What A Special Time You Were Able To Seed Into Someone's LiFe. That's What We Are Called To Do And You Were Faithful.

    My Prayers Will Continue To Go Out To Musa's Family And FoR You.

  2. Emily, thank you for sharing your story. May God continue to strengthen you and comfort you and use you for His glory.
    Our God is the God of Comfort and He will continue to display His unfailing love to you.
    Keep looking to Jesus, my friend.

  3. Oh Emily. I think of you and pray for you every day. I know I was there only a few short weeks, I am thankful that I can read this and get a clear picture in my mind and my heart. You have had an enormous effect on my life! Praying for all of you there in Kamakwie.