Tag Archives: Coping with Death

I feel weird

It’s been a weird return to the United States. The first news that I received after plugging in my phone at the Minneapolis airport was that my grandfather had died early that morning. In a lot of ways, my experience since has been trying to make sense of two tragedies: The larger humanitarian crisis happening in Uganda with the refugees and the stories I had heard from them, and my own more personal tragedy with the death of my grandfather.

Both of these events really deserve to be looked at separately. There is nothing that should link them besides my timing and proximity to them. They are independent tragedies.

Yet, it’s impossible for me to separate them. In processing my grief with the one, the other always found its way in, forcing me to process both almost together. That’s why I feel I need to talk about both together, and don’t think I can simply explain how I’ve felt since my arrival back in the United States.

I know that I’m nowhere close to having processed either and will probably spend a lot of time thinking about this experience throughout the rest of the summer.

Ultimately, the best way I can put my feelings right now is that I feel weird. There’s some guilt, lots of sadness, a little bit of disillusion. Guilt, for where we’ve left countries like Uganda, for not having been there at the end of my grandfather’s life. Disillusioned with death, with the capacity of humanity to do good, and whether if there is that much good.

We often talk about reducing the suffering of humanity. Many of the places where Christian theology intersects with politics and sociology tends to focus on ways of making a so called “Kingdom of God.”

Yet, it’s difficult to think about an end to suffering when it’s so prevalent in life, or to even imagine a place in which it ends. In Uganda, suffering is prevalent anywhere that you look. In the United States, we have done a lot to reduce suffering, yet it would be hard for me to say that my mother or grandmother or the rest of my family wasn’t suffering. It’s disheartening to think that despite all we have done, there is still prevalent suffering here, and that there is virtually nothing we can do about this suffering. Death remains inevitable, and the people that are left behind after will always feel the passing.

Coping with Death

A week in Africa, already!?!?! It has been almost a week in Africa but a week from leaving the United States. We have heard of two tragic incidents from the Omaha area since we left. It makes me question the way we see death versus the way Africans see death. Driving through Kampala, there are store stands where they are selling different size coffins. Death is so common place for them and so taboo for us.

Sketching and writing in my journal has provided me a way to process some very deep questions. I do not have answers for them but I have definitely considered things through a different lens. I’m uncertain if the question I opened this blog with is even appropriate to be discussing due to the strong connection some on the trip have with the incidents. Yet, everything I have personally journaled about provokes these deep questions that will likely offend someone. This is not my intention, but the way I am processing the immense amount of information that I have been receiving by watching the foreignarea around me.

I can see some of my thoughts through my sketches, although because of the sensitive nature of the thoughts, I will leave them here for you to perhaps form your own questions. The first is people from the plane ride. My thoughts were around a topic I have a love/hate relationship with, technology.

The second is a cat that was entertained by a mouse it had caught. My thoughts were based around life, death and how we relate to each other.

The last one is my view from the hotel room in Kampala. I could hear a rooster crowing, dogs barking, birds singing, and city noises of individuals beginning their day. It was very surreal standing on the balcony for me. If there was a thought about life and the way we live it out, I am certain I had considered it on some level.

I am enjoying Africa, a lot! It is abeautiful place with beautiful people. It has opened my eyes in a way that I do not know how to express to others and leaves me with questions I can not answer. The biggest questions I have are: How do we help others when our own lives need work? How do Americans make a difference without removing the beauty from other cultures? Are Americans correct in believing in a utopia where equality prevails or should life be more about appreciation of the time here regardless of the situation?