At the end of the Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate with their family, I was wondering what that day would be like for our neighboring widow (see a previous blog). Would she be allowed to take part in the celebrations?
‘Of course she can celebrate and people will be visiting, but she is not allowed to leave the courtyard, since her three months (and some days) of mourning are not yet over’, Ibrahim explained to me one evening over tea.
It being so short after her husband’s passing away I’m not sure if her mind was set on celebrating.
But, having said that, life is quite different in Mali as the following shows.
‘So, what happens when a woman dies? Does the husband also has to stay inside for three months to mourn and pray?’
‘No, of course not, he can do as he wants to, life goes on.’
‘But what is the difference?’, I asked in surprise.
‘Well, life goes on, you see, that’s just the way it is. It’s not a cultural thing, it’s our religion.’
‘But, I do not at all understand the difference.’
‘No of course not, because you are not a Muslim. You will never understand. It’s like the habit of widows wearing only black clothes for some time in your culture.’
‘It used to be like that in the past, but nowadays you rarely see that anymore. Times have changed and so have the habits.’
‘Well you know, it’s the way our prophet has told us to do things. And that’s the way we do!’
It being needless to ask any further or to try to have a talk about it, I changed the subject.
‘And what happens when a couple looses a child?’
‘That’s nothing! Life continues, they do benedictions on the 1st day, on the 3rd day and there will be a memorial ceremony on the 41st day. And of course they can do benedictions every year after. That’s up to them.’
I felt a bit blown away, the death of a child being referred to as ‘nothing’.
Several of my Dutch friends have faced the loss of a child and I’ve seen the immense impact it has on their lives. The feelings of loss, the pain, the mourning, and nothing ever being the same any more…
Rather than getting upset I tried to look at it from a Malian perspective:
Life expectancy is around 50, families are large and therefore death is an aspect of daily life.
Whether it’s a dead born child or it dying from a (not timely treated) disease, the loss of a child happens to many families. It also not being uncommon that families will have to deal with the loss of several children. And the number of children having lost one or both their parents – like Ibrahim and Amadou – are numerous.
It’s God who decides when someone’s time on earth has come to an end. The daily workload doesn’t stop with the death of a child. There are no social services. Life goes on…
Whether emotions are being suppressed or dealt with in a different way?
I honestly don’t know.