Thursday, July 28, 2011

too many funerals

Considering the relatively small size of our community and UAC-CP familia, I attend far too many funerals. I hear the sound of too many nails pounded into coffins.  I feel the deep sobs of too many friends and family members in mourning.  I see the lives of so many promising young men and women lost.

Today our UAC-CP family said goodbye to another student--a young woman who arrived to the Pre-University Program last February with hopes of following in her older sisters' footsteps of studying at the College.  Natalie Cutili, who died from complications of Tuberculosis last night at her family's home, was laid to rest today in the Coroico cemetery surrounded by her family, people from her community, and her friends and classmates from the UAC-CP.

As much as I'd like to say it was "a beautiful ceremony" or "the perfect tribute to a lovely young woman," I have to say that it was, for me, a disturbing event full of chaos and profound sadness. It was a typical funeral in the countryside--void of any sense of obvious peace or tranquility.

The gate to the Coroico cemetery--a place where I have said goodbye to several students and their family members.

This afternoon as I sat in the cemetery with a couple of colleagues from the College and waited for Natalie's body to arrive in the back of a pickup truck, we collectively recalled the names and situations of other UAC-CP students whose lives were taken prematurely (the most recent, Wilmer Perez, just two weeks ago).  Facing her tomb, we easily remembered Brigida Alvarez, a UAC-CP Nursing student who died in 2009. I couldn't help think about the blog entry I wrote for Brigida a little more than two years ago--as we sat in the very same sad situation:

Often the causes of death (for both our students and their family members) reflect that we live in the poor, rural area of a developing country where health care is either lacking or completely unavailable and diseases (like Tuberculosis) essentially eradicated from developed parts of the world still frequently prey on the poor... Part of our mission at the College is to change those frighteningly deadly statistics through education, research, and community extension. But when the very same young people who champion our work fall victim to the things they set out to conquer, it's an especially sharp stab to the heart.

"This happens too often," a UAC-CP co-worker said suddenly yesterday. And, as if to nobody in particular, he talked about the direct relationship most deaths have with poverty.  In the end, he said, it all comes down to money--not having enough money to stay in the hospital or to get to better service.  "Too many young people lost; too many funerals," he said. I couldn't agree more.

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