No More Mud

Story and photo by Karen Weaver

It was the early 1980’s and Des and Jenny Oatridge had been living among the Binumarien people for more than two decades, translating the Bible into their language. God’s Word was changing lives, sometimes in ways that took even Des and Jenny by surprise.

One of those times came when the Oatridge’s long-time neighbor, Peetai, died. That evening Des went to sleep in his village house, expecting to be awakened before too long by the traditional mourning and wailing. Strangely, only quiet penetrated the night air. The next day Des accompanied the family to the graveside, but he was puzzled that no one in the village was plastered in mud, as tradition demanded.

After the funeral Des went next door to visit Peetai’s husband, Maraa’aro, to mourn with him and the family for a while. Des commented, “I didn’t hear any crying last night.”

Maraa’aro replied, “No, we didn’t cry and there was no mud, except for one distant relative.”

Puzzled, Des asked, “But why didn’t you put on mud? And why didn’t you cry?”

Maraa’aro explained, “Mud is an expression of extreme grief. When a person dies and we realize they are gone forever, we cover our heads and shoulders with mud as a sign of the agony we feel inside. That person is gone forever and we’ll never see them again. The crying is very similar. We call that crying when someone dies ‘hard crying.’ We hard cry when we feel distraught by the eternal separation that death brings. We are helpless and hopeless. There is no way we can beat the monster death.”

Des queried, “I’m still not sure why you didn’t cry for Peetai.”

Her husband gently explained, “Everyone knows where Peetai is going. We know she went straight to Jesus in heaven. She loved to read the Scriptures. She taught them to her children.” Lowering his tear-filled eyes, Maraa’aro spoke softly, “Before she died, she said, ‘I am going to the Good Place. Do not hard cry for me. You shall see me again in the place Jesus is making.’”

(Condensed from the book “Hidden People” by Lynette Oats, p. 303-305)

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