Here I want to tell a story about Jeres' grandmother who passed away on Thursday, I believe. He went to the funeral and is on his way back now as I write this. The first time we went to visit his family in Grisongarde, Haiti was after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. We went through the south to Port-au-Prince and then ended up in the north where most of his family is. The reason we went to the north was to "search" for a boy named Anol. He went to visit his family over Christmas with plans of coming right back. On the same day as the earthquake, we got the news that he had died. Of course the news came from another young man and he was sort of not serious about the report so we didn't fully believe it. We checked with the family that he lived with who said the same, but I still had strong doubts.
My mother went back to Puerto Plata with Kristin and I over Thanksgiving break that year, shortly before I graduated. I asked every boy that came and visited us whether they had seen Anol. My heart broke as it came time to leave and he hadn't showed up. Hours before we took off, he showed up, wanting a soccer ball, as we had brought many. He got his ball and left. My heart was satisfied just to see him.
Throughout the years after that he was always a super helper and protector. He came and learned but didn't advance a lot. He mostly helped out in the kitchen. He found out about his diabetes and we did our best to help him with it. He lived with a family in Padre Granero who had brought him over from Haiti when he was young. They tried their best to help him too.
We had a little purple Terios vehicle that we drove up from Port-au-Prince to the north. We went through hours of treacherous mountains without guard rails and finally made it to Grisongarde. Jeres was nervous having not been home in four years and going with Ilayas and I. Ilayas was just five months old. My mom back in Virginia was also extremely nervous as she did NOT want us to go to Haiti after the earthquake, but I felt such a strong drive that I didn't feel like I could turn off.
There is one main road that goes from Cap Haitian to Grisongarde. It is not paved. It runs by a river that is full of naked people bathing and clothed people washing or fetching water. Houses line both sides of the roads. Many of the houses are made of clay and have fences made of woven leaves enclosing the yard. There is no electricity and no running water. We went along this road for close to an hour before arriving at a little side road to the right that we went down. We had picked up Jeres' older brother along the way as they had planned to meet at a little town square.
This side road had just a few houses on each side before it ended. The last house on the left is his grandmother's house. The last building on the right is an enclosed yard with an orphanage run by someone I believe called Dr. Ray. His aunt worked there until she passed away a few years ago.
I felt refreshed seeing as I had come to think that every single house was along the main road. His grann's house seemed more private, shady, and had little patches of grass in the yard. I found it adorable. It reminded me of the Shire.
We followed Fernandez, Jeres' brother, into the house. His short (from what I remember) grandmother was there with two aunts, I believe. This is his grandmother on his father's side. His father was killed in Port-au-Prince when he was about 10 years old. The story is that his grandmother then killed the men who killed his father. How did she kill them? From Grisongarde. This means she used mystical means. But this was before she became a Christian. :)
We hadn't sat down with the family for more than a few minutes when his grandmother exclaimed that Jeres looked like his father, Christo. "I miss Christo!" she yelled and started bawling. His aunts did the same. Jeres hung his head and tears streamed down his face. I was in shock and fought back small tears just at seeing it. His brother Fernandez tried to calm the situation by talking over their sobs saying and repeating, "You don't need to cry when you see Jeres. You should be happy to see him."
They eventually stopped and we went on our way down the main road to his mother's house. This is where we stayed for what we thought would be a day or two, but ended up being more than a week. Among doing other things, we sought out Anol's mother during that week. She said that Anol had indeed died and led us to his grave. I had a really, really hard time and did things that only the community of Grisongarde knows, along with a handful of people I have told and the millions of people they have told, haha. I won't go into details here.
I remember at one point I was crying and just not able to accept the finality of it. A pastor who lives across the road from Jeres' mom said, "Haven't you ever had a little brother or sister pass away?" I explained that I had not and the fact that he said that so normally made it all the more sad. We also visited Etienne, a boy who had become mentally ill in the DR and we brought back to his family months prior. However, we didn't arrive in Grisongarde at that time because we ironically found his grandfather in town. He was close to death at the time I saw him. He died in the following months.
This week... I grappled with verses and the meanings of them. This pastor named Paul and I spent several hours one morning discussing such things. I also spent lots of time with one of Jeres' aunts discussing the same things. I learned so much about beliefs and practices that take place in Haiti dealing with death.
Finally we knew we had to go back to the Dominican Republic and drove off. I had a really hard time leaving Anol behind. We went by his grandmother's house to say good-bye. I wasn't able to stop crying at that point. His aunt and grandmother met us on the side of the road and we said our good-byes from inside the car. His aunt who they call Ma Paste spoke comforting and strengthening words to me as his grandmother smiled sweetly at me.
Ma Paste means Pastor's Wife. Her husband was a pastor. When their three children were just babies and toddlers he got involved with a group that was going to the United States. I can't remember if it was by plane or boat. There was an organizer helping them to go, collecting money, etc. She knew a few others who also joined the group. They left on the date they were supposed to. No one heard from them again. All of this was too much for me. But her children were now grown at this point and she had a nice and well kept house. She also struggles with diabetes.
As we said good-bye and Ma Paste spoke words of strength to me, the grandmother stood by her daughter's side smiling so sweetly at me. I felt a strong bond with her at that moment. Just a week before I was shocked when I met her and immediately saw her fresh and deep pain for the loss of her son, even though it was a loss that took place several years prior. She didn't try to hide that pain in the least. Now I cried rawly and sorely in front of her over the loss of a young man I had a motherly love for. I don't want to misread her sweet smiling but it seemed as though she was comforted by the fact that I was sharing in her pain.
Rest in Peace, Grann. We know that a day is coming when death will be no more. It wasn't the will of our Father that we experience such sorrow and pain, and he'll do away with it as it says in the Good Book.