I think Singengule was one of the oldest guys in our village. But he was quite mobile, working his own little gardens, despite having a chronic lung issues (maybe COPD). He was known for a while by us as the Avocado guy. We don’t see many vegetables here in the bush apart from leavy greens. But he shared with us especially even special vegetables, including avocados, green onions and cabbages which we don’t see often. He often sat in on our language session and gave some advice if asked.
So, I knew if a bad virus like Covid or similar should hit him, that wouldn’t be good. I was really worrried about him. And now, while I am just trying to write this blog, it makes me cry thinking of him. We see colds all the time, and if Covid was here or not, we couldn’t tell for two years since the pandemic. Then in February Philip had Covid in the bush, and we knew it must be in Kovol. But not until two weeks ago, when we saw a huge wave with a terrible cold coming through. And Singengule was hit as well. We just wanted to share the gospel with him, but then the night before that could happen, he died. He also didn’t seem quite coherent his last 3 days or so. This was hard. It is the first Kovol friend that we felt close with who died and most likely without knowing the way to God. I just want to cry thinking about where he might be now. Sadly we are not far enough with the language to communicate the gospel clearly in their language yet.
He died two days ago. We heard the wailing starting in the night and we knew it was him. Yesterday was a day of mourning and sitting with the family. They dressed him in a nice white shirt and black long pants. Today was the burial. Nothing fancy. Very simple. They built the coffin, dug the hole, put him in there and filled the hole. No ‘last will’ to take care of as far as we know, no fancy meal or decoration, no program. Today there was not even much crying from what we saw. Just sad blank looks. But it took all day from morning until almost 6pm to bury him. In the morning while women and children sat together at the house, the guys built the coffin. The sons decided where we would bury him. We were thinking about how to work around the rain that was expected to come in the afternoon. After the coffin was done, the body was laid in there by some guys. The lifting of the body made the room smell even worse. The guys tried to wash their hands really well after lifting him. The body was wrapped in a cloth/ blanket and left in the house at first. Some guys went to dig the grave.
It was not far away behind our houses where? there is a little grave yard, not visible to the outsider. It was hard work and the guys took turns, digging for hours. The others who weren’t digging, hung out at a fire, smoked, chewed betelnut and had a relaxing atmosphere. The sons of Singenngule weren’t there yet. Some ladies came and left with some kids from time to time. They dug straight down and then to the side, where they would push the coffin underneath. People were talking with each other and telling us about the other graves in the area. There are no stones or names written to mark the graves. Older graves are caved in, and most other graves have some tanget bush planted on them. Others don’t have any marks on them, but the people here just know where they have buried people and use trees as land marks. Next to the hole were they buried Singengule, his young granddaughter was buried. She had died before we came to Kovol.
Another grave was of a man who was not from our area. He had come to ‘baptize’ or ‘give water’ to the people here, but he was killed by ‘witchcraft’ people say. After that, the story goes, there was a week of very heavy earthquakes in this area. Two of the older guys were kids at that time and shared how they were scared and really hungry.
I needed to listen for Timon waking up from his nap and so I left the digging site. At 4pm Philp told me it was time to go to bury him. And sure enough, some guys just grabbed the open coffin (no lid) and went to the hole. There they put him in the place while almost the whole village was watching. A couple guys were standing in the hole to receive the coffin while following instructions from above. After they pushed the coffin under the dirt (see picture), they put sticks and leaves in front of it, trying to prevent dirt falling on him. Then they filled the hole with dirt. Some people looked really sad and stared, others were joking and laughing a bit about how they filled the hole. Once it was filled, they stomped the dirt down to pack it down. ‘It’s done’ someone says, and we all start going home.
Now some, if not all, believe the spirit will roam the jungle or the village for a while. They have heard about there being a place of hell and heaven and they hope he goes eventually to heaven or whatever it means for them. I know from other places in our area, that they will bury some food pieces to stop the spirit from going to their house again. But I don’t know if they will do it this time. Another thing we have seen is their having to figure out if there is some unspoken anger or disagreement among the family. They will speak it out, maybe have even a meal and hope there will be no problems coming up anymore from this death. But the family will be sad for a long time, though they might never tell others about it. The hole remains. Even worse, they don’t know for sure where their loved one is now.
May God’s grace keep them all alive, so one day they will really know and believe!