Nov 8 (cont’d) – Circle of Life

As I wrote before, I saw a live birth earlier today….but experienced a death, all in the same day.

Later on, around 9pm I was sitting outside with my family, as usual, just staring at the brilliant stars and listening to music on my brother’s radio. Even with the loud radio, we could hear some cries and wailing in the distance through the dark night. The radio got turned off. Everyone became silent while we waited to find out what had happened. We found out a 36 year old woman who had been sick had just died. She was leaving behind 3 children.

A typical scene every night: my host brothers & friends sitting and talking

It made me realize how life and death is so real here. It’s very easy to forget that when I’m in America because life is so fast paced there. Our culture hates talking about anything related to the idea of death. Instead, it’s more tabooed. If you want proof, go look at any cosmetic shelf and you’ll see all the ‘anti-aging’ products sitting there. From my own experiences, when someone I know has died, it’s considered rude to talk about it and instead our cultural norm is to give that person their space – to leave them alone. We consider this as a sign of respect. In my village, when the woman died, my mom and my neighbor’s mom both quickly got dressed and left to go to the house where the woman died. It was close to 10pm when they left. It gets pitch black by 8pm in the village. As they were leaving, I thought how wonderful it was that when a death occurs, the adults went immediately to visit the family. This doesn’t normally happen in the US. Usually we would wait until the next morning. Dekkandoo, is huge in Senegalese culture. It is the Wolof word for the cultural value of friends and family. It’s something that I am continually awed by. And, I think it’s one of the main reasons why Muslims and Catholics can live together in peace, in a 95% Muslim country.

This flower only opens up/grows at night, it’s an interesting contrast of life growing in the midst of darkness

I’ve never experienced a day when life and death was so visible to me. In America, we’re too pressed for time, often too busy to notice these fleeting, but important moments:  the miracle of life and the passing away of another.

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