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The Death of a Child

Another little child has died. About a month ago the daughter of a believer in Tera died and the same day the daughter of a believer in Doumba died. This one belongs to D-- and H--, Christians in Doumba. She was 7 months old. The parents had been taking her to the dispensary since October 22. She got shots and medicines, but her fever kept coming and going. Then she couldn't have a bowel movement and her little tummy swelled up. They went back on Thursday and got more medicine. The nurses finally said if she wasn't better by morning they should take her to the hospital in Tera.

On Friday morning a Doumba guy came to our house around 6:30 a.m. I said, without thinking about why he might have come 5 miles on a bike so early in the morning, "Wow! You got up early." Then he told me D-- had sent him to tell us that their baby had died around midnight.

D-- and H-- had her in bed between them. (This would be the normal sleeping arrangement as a nursing infant always sleeps with his/her mother.) The next oldest child kept asking if she would get better. I didn't understand if he was kneeling by the bed, or was on the floor beside them, but he finally fell asleep. When the baby died H-- told D-- to go outside with the baby so that thelittle boy wouldn't be afraid if he woke up. At dawn when the neighbors got up to pray, they told them the baby had died and they went to bury her (only men go to the burial).

All of this the mother told me with dry eyes while she cleaned millet to make for supper. Oh yes, she was sad and, yes, she will miss the baby, but death amongst children seems to be just part of the routine here.
The medical system is so pitiful. The doctors and nurses do what they can with what they have. But I dare say no lab tests were ever run on her. Maybe it was malaria, maybe not. Maybe it was something else. Nobody will ever know. Nobody will ever demand to know.

This acceptance of the death of children is so hard to fathom. And yet I find myself just accepting it as the parents and grandparents accept it. It happens so often, you find you cannot grieve as maybe you should.

This is my friend H--, but the baby is not the one who died. This is the baby before that one...the little boy who knelt by his parent's bed while his sister lay dying. The girl in front of her is her big sister. She was so tired of having all brothers and was so glad when her mom finally had another girl. Now she is gone.

(Thanks, Mike, for the photo.)
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