July 17, 2016

The Sounds of Life
by Dan Michalek

Greetings from San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. I’m spending a month here, thanks to the hospitality of the House of Healing.

As I write this, I’m surrounded by sound. There are birds, many of them unfamiliar to gringo ears. I have a favorite that I’ll tell you about one of these days. On the visual side are the biggest hummingbirds I’ve ever seen. I love to watch them from our big second floor windows.

There’s a band not far away, practicing for something. They’re pretty good, actually.

There’s also a big tent in the street in front of the house.   A very dear lady died Friday morning. Her husband works at the House of Healing, and the entire family is known and loved by many G-team members.

Since there is no embalming, or many of the other things we’re accustomed to, public events began the same night as her death. The town OK’d the closing of the street, and things got off the ground shortly before 8:00. There was a band, there were prayers and other expressions of love and support, and people came and went throughout the event as the rain poured down.

I was surrounded by sound.

The following afternoon, family and friends came together again, this time for a meal under the tent. Children played and laughed all day long as their mothers worked hard getting dinner ready. The spirit was definitely different from the previous night, but every now and then I could still hear an unmistakable expression of grief.

Then the casket was taken from the house to the church for a funeral mass, followed by a walking procession through the town, ending at the cemetery for another service there.

The sounds, smells, sights and hugs came together for an unforgettable two days.

Family ties are strong here in Guatemala. Multiple hardships are part of everyday life, so families assume a level of importance that we in more privileged parts of the world all too readily take for granted.

Another sound I regularly hear around here is the word ‘Jesus.’ In life, in death, and everything in between, sounds and images of faith permeate the culture so much more than ours. Then again, maybe we just need to be more attentive. Maybe we need to be more intentional as to what we let into our minds and hearts.

Just a thought from the House of Healing: changing the world, one life at a time.