Baby Lokute's story didn't end where I left off last time. That was only day one and this little guy had a life full of adventures. So let me tell you a little more about his story...
Lokute stayed at the hospital for a little over a week with his mom, Lucia. Everyday I went to check on him, giving mom a chance to bathe and me a chance to see how he was and give him some cuddles. His room was painfully hot for anyone who wasn't a 1 kg baby and it was torture to have to stay in that room for too long, but his mom faithfully stayed there day after day with the little heater on in "Lokute's Incubator."
Tamara and Jeremy took Lucia back to Masese one afternoon so she could see her family and tell them what was happening and bring back someone to translate so we could talk about what we were going to do. Lucia is Karamojong and her language is not very well known in Jinja, thus communication was a challenge. There was a lot of motions, face-making, and laughter whenever we tried to communicate and I'm pretty sure about 95% of what was being said was lost as we acted out our words. But alas, the wonderful Lillian came to translate and we were all able to sit down with the doctor and discuss what should be done to keep Lokute healthy. Because the cost of keeping them in the hospital would be too much and Lucia had another son at home, it was finally decided that they would have to go home. So we devised a plan for how to keep Lokute warm and healthy in his dirt hut.
Lokute's hut looked something like this (sorry it's not a great picture).
Lokute was doing well during his first week of life. We had him bundled in lots of sweaters and tiny onsies and sleepers that I altered to fit him. He was wrapped in blankets and tucked into a foam pouch. And he was holding his temperature relatively well. He even went on an adventure to the chapati stand next to the hospital to get some lunch. He was quite the hit with the locals who were quite curious as to what kind of baby I had tucked away in my roll of blankets. "He's a Ugandan baby," I'd explain. "Not a Mzungu."
They day before I was to leave, Jeremy and I went with Lucia to the village to look at her hut and speak with her and Lokute's father about how they could care for their baby. We sat on mats on the dirt floor explaining ways to keep him warm and clean. About how much he needs to eat. We explained how to use a hot water bottle (something we were hoping to find so they could keep him warm at night... though one was never found). We explained and explained again, asking for them to repeat what we'd told them. And then the father left. And when he returned, he began snorting something out of his hand.
Masese is a dark place where alcohol production is a main source of income. The people are drunk much of the time, as was the father during our teaching session. Jeremy had to restrain me from telling off the father about his drinking, reminding me that culturally it would be better if he talked to him about it. Of course, once the snorting of drugs happened, I lost it. I'm not sure exactly what I said... something along the lines of, "You're going to kill your child if you bring that stuff in the house." It was like talking to a wall. He was too drunk to even register what I was saying to him, which was probably a good thing for my sake.
And that's when the translator spoke up. "He says he beats his woman sometimes." Right there, in front of all of us, as we're teaching him how to take care of his premature baby, he tells us that he beats his woman. Jeremy and I turned to each other. "This is not going to work," he said. There was no way we were going to turn this tiny baby over to a man who loses his temper like that. I have never in my life felt that much anger towards a person as I did in that moment. Tamara appeared in the doorway at that moment, rescuing us from what we probably would have said had we been left in there with that man any longer. We emerged into the light, me trembling with anger as we quickly relayed in hushed tones to Tamara what had happened.
We left that day frustrated and angry and at a loss for what to do. Back at the hospital I sat on the bench in the courtyard contemplating what solution there was for Lokute. Then Anna called (Anna is an amazing volunteer at the children's home I was living at). She told me that Holly and William (who run the home) might be willing to let Lucia, Lokute, and the other son to come and live at the boys house until Lokute was strong enough to safely return home.
Tamara and I sat there, exhausted and angry, discussing what we could do. Then the conversation turned to the larger picture of how many other stories just like that happen in the village of Masese. (Another time I'll talk about my dream to one to get to return there and work with those mom's and babies)
To bring this extremely long story to an end, Lucia, Lokute, and his brother moved into the children's home where Anna, Emma (another volunteer), and some of the mamas took shift watching over him and ensuring that he was doing well. I haven't heard the whole story on what happened, but he deteriorated quickly and two days ago he just stopped breathing. He was a fighter and he was loved and I believe he shook up the lives of all of us who cared for him.
December 11, 2009 - January 12, 2010
This is an excerpt from an e-mail Jeremy sent out that I wanted to share with you...
"We just returned from Masese after burying 2 baby boys. Of course, one was baby Lokute. The other we found in the arms of a mourning mother when we arrived. His name was Joseph, a one-year old nephew to Michael and Lillian. We dug two holes side by side on the hill, and crammed between the bushes next to a pig pen to hold the ceremony. There was no making the bodies look peaceful or concern about buying a casket. The babies were placed straight in the ground, wrapped in their everyday blankets and clothed in last nights pajamas. It was quick and functional for the most part. To us, disturbingly routine. For these families, especially the mothers, this was a proper burial and they were thankful.
There was obvious strangeness in contrast to our own 'culture of death', but It was also an unusual experience in light of Karamojong culture.
The Karamojong frequently abandon their dead, yet both of these mothers struggled for the lives of their children and carefully watched over them up until they were place in the ground.
Bodies are often discarded like refuse because families have no land and the public burial ground is full. Plots cost more money than they can afford. But today, a friend of the church came forward and gave a plot for the children to be buried properly.
And the Karamojong rarely pay respect to the dead, let alone hold a God honoring service. Of course, Pastor Joseph and other men of the church jumped at the chance to lead the service and minister to the family as well as the greater community with the love and truth of Jesus.
Contrary to our fears of how they'd receive us as we arrived with Lokute's body, the family was filled with thankfulness and asked only one thing from us.... that we not forget them and return to visit them at home. Mourning with them and the larger community brought about a rare occurrence. We felt like we were 'just part of them', and We were humbled and honored to mourn with them. Afterward, Lokute's mother thanked us profusely for trying to help her baby, and for helping ensure he was given a respectful service. We can only thank our merciful God. It's so clear how He continually works for their good, even in the midst of tragedy.
God has a history of using tragedy for His glory, to open eyes , to change hearts, to prepare and launch people into Kingdom work. We pray the tragedy of these two baby boys buried in the ground would be like seeds planted, springing up to new life.
i know this sounds heavy, and it is. But we're doing really well and have great peace in Christ. Pray for Masese."