An Argentine Funeral

April 20, 2013




The car was in the garage.  The mechanic said it needed a new carburetor.  I had planned to take the moped out the next morning to shop around to get a carburetor at the best price. It was raining the next morning so I started out with my umbrella.  When I got to the door I saw the form of a man on the other side of the glass door.  I thought he was just standing there to get out of the rain but I recognized him when I opened the door. He had come to our church a number of times.  I ask him what he was doing in our neighborhood. He told me the sad news.  He said, “my brother-in-law died suddenly last night.  His brother-in-law’s wife, Rose, was a member of our church.  He was only 28 years old.  He died of a heart attack.

Rose only lived about 9 blocks from our house.  She was never a very stable Christian. She hadn’t been coming very faithfully recently.  She appeared to be yielding to the influence of her Pentecostal sister.  She said her husband wouldn’t let her come any more.  We knew they had been having some marital problems.  One weekend she had gone to her sister’s house because things were so bad at home.  She said her husband told her she would have to choose between him or the church.  It appeared as though she chose to keep peace at home.  Her husband, Roger, had come to our church a number of times. One Sunday he made a profession of salvation with our deacon, Juan Carlos.  We never saw much to convince us that it was genuine.  He finally quite coming and went back to living like a typical secular man.

I told the man at the door that I would send Margaret over to Rose’s house right away while I went out to look for a carburetor so we could get the car fixed as soon as possible. It was noon when I got back with the car.  Margaret said Rose was doing as well as could be expected.  Two of her sisters were there with her. Rose told her that Roger came home from work about 11:00 the night before.  He gave the children a kiss and they went to bed.  He sat down to eat his supper.  There at the table he said he felt terrible and collapsed.  She sent her oldest son running to her sister’s house who lived about 3 blocks away.  A neighbor, who is a fireman, came and gave Roger artificial respiration.  He showed some signs of reviving but then it was all in vain.  A neighbor took him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.  Rose wanted to have the funeral at the house which is a very common practice there.

After dinner Margaret and I went over to the house.  It had rained hard so we had to leave the car four blocks away and walk in.  The body had already been brought to the house. All the furniture and appliances had been moved out of the kitchen-dining room to make room for it. Rose was lying in bed. A lady from our church, who came with us, sat at her side to comfort her. After a time I went back to see that the car was alright. When  I  got back they  said Rose was having nervous  attacks  and  they wanted  to  take her  to the  doctor.  Her brother-in-law, who was a policeman, took her outside and he and I started to work with her. We made her bend over and sit up a number of times. Often we had to hold her mouth open to make her breath though her mouth. The women put perfume under her nose. The big policeman slapped her face to bring her back to her senses. There was no doctor or medical facility in the neighborhood. Juan Carlos, our deacon arrived about 2:30. He took the keys to our car to go look for a doctor. We kept struggling with Rose. Once, in a brief calm moment, I prayed with her and gave her some words of encouragement. In a little while she calmed down and went to sleep. When the doctor arrived he prescribed a tranquilizer for her.

Rose’s children had been taken to a neighbor’s house. It was suggested that someone ought to bring the children to see the body and explain to them what was happening. The lady from our church went   to get   the children.     The women refused to let her take them. She said, “It’s not right to make them see a terrible thing like that.” There was more discussion about what should be done. Other relatives went to get them too and came back defeated. The children didn’t want to come. When Juan Carlos arrived he went over to  talk to them too but he didn’t succeed either. We decided to leave about 7:00. As we left   we saw the neighbor lady crossing the yard with the children taking them over to Rose’s house.      We went and offered to go with them. I picked up Rosalia, the middle girl, and carried her to the house. As we started to enter the house she put out her hands so we couldn’t   go through the door.  I talked to her a little bit and on the second try she made no   resistance. I stood holding her at the side of her daddy’s casket.  I explained to her   that her daddy wouldn’t be with them any more but her mother would.  After that the   children stayed at the house and were more content.


We went back home at 7:30 with intentions of returning at 9:30 or 10:00 that night with more from the church who we thought would want to come.  Our deacon dropped us off at our house and took the car to his house to bring people from the church that night.  About 9:00 it started raining hard.  At 10:00 they arrived at our house in the rain.  When we left the highway and started up the last 8 blocks of paved street we had to go through 4 blocks that were under water 1-2 feet deep.  When we arrived they said Rose was asleep.  We didn’t awaken her.  We stayed about an hour. Whi1e there, I entertained the children by shining the flashlight on the big toads that were hopping around in the water standing in the front yard.  Then it started raining hard again so we had to go back inside again.  When it let up a little, we put on our rain gear and walked 4 blocks through the mud to where we left the car.

As we started out to the highway we met a man walking up the street who shouted as we went by, “you won’t get through.”  We didn’t take his words very seriously.  As we started into the flooded street the water got deeper and deeper.  I noticed that it was coming in under the doors because my feet were in water.  About that time one of the women in the back seat said, “it’s getting up to the seats.  I noticed too that my tail bone was getting awful damp. Then the car stopped about 50 feet from the highway. Juan Carlos and I got out in water up to our waists and started pushing the car.  We got it out of the deepest water but the grade up to the highway was so steep that we couldn’t go any farther.  The women got out and pushed too. We got it up on the highway. We all wondered if it would ever start again.  I thought it would be best to try starting it by pushing it because I thought the starter would be wet.  After two tries and no success, Juan Carlos tried the starter and it started.  We all said “thank you Lord” and got back in on the soaking wet seats and started home. We took them home as far as we could.  The streets were flooded so they had to walk the rest of the way.  Margaret and I scooped water out of the car with a dustpan when we got home.   The next morning I put an electric heater in the car to try to dry it out a little bit.  That night I saw that a little bit was all I had dried it out.  The next morning I took the seats all out of it and took up the floor mat to get it dried out.

On Wednesday afternoon the body was to be taken to the cemetery.  We couldn’t take the car so Margaret and I went to Roses house on the bus. We were told they would come to get the body at 2:30 or 3:30.  When we got there the funeral cars were already assembled along the pavement and they were walking in to get the body.  Rose was hysterical again when we got there.  She wasn’t in any condition for a final viewing of the body.  The odor from the body was getting strong so it was well that they didn’t wait any longer.  Since they don’t embalm the bodies there the law stipulates that they should be buried in 24 hours after death.  This one had already gone about 36 hours.

The big policeman and I took over again to get Rose straightened out.  It took more perfume, more slaps in the face and soda water sprayed in her face to get her to come back to her senses.  We knew she would have to walk the 4 blocks out to the pavement.  I was tempted to suggest that someone stay at the house with her but I knew their culture demanded that she go.  When the men from the funeral home had the casket covered they ask for some of the men to volunteer to carry it out to the pavement.  Three men on each side of it started the solemn procession up the street.  Some carried wreaths of flowers.  Others carried the stand the casket was setting on and the big electric candles they had around the casket.  Rose still sat in a chair in the back yard with the policeman and me on either side of her.  Her sisters and relatives surrounded us, encouraging her to make the trip.  We got her to her feet and started out again with the policeman and me on either side of her.  I suggested that someone bring a chair to sit her down in case she collapsed before we got there but no one took my suggestion.  About half way to the pavement a neighbor man took my place at her side.  When we got her in a funeral car Margaret and I had to think about how we would get to the cemetery. They had funeral cars for the immediate family.  The only way to go was on the bus.  We were afraid we wouldn’t get there in time.  The Lord was with us.  A bus came by just as the funeral procession left. We took that one to the highway and got off to take the second bus.


Fortunately the second bus had a boy on it that was injured.  He was bleeding from an open wound in his side The bus driver was in a hurry to get him to a clinic.  He didn’t even stop for one stop light.  We soon passed the funeral procession.  Then we got off to take a third bus to get to the cemetery.    The funeral procession entered the gate of the cemetary just as we got there.  We followed them to the grave site.  Rose stood at the back of the hearse while we waited for men to finish digging the shallow grave.  When it came time to take the casket out and carry it to the grave Rose started to collapse. Margaret was standing at her side.  She called for help.  Some of the men rushed to her side.  They drug her to the side of the street and sat her down on the curb.  The policeman was with her again.  I was holding the hand of her daughter to consol her and I thought I better stay at her side.  The men waited a few minutes before closing the grave to see if Rose would get control of herself to come and watch. After a short time they went ahead and closed it and they got Rose to her feet and took her back to the funeral car.  Margaret went back to the house to see if she could be of any help to Rose.  When she got there the family had already decided they would have to take her to the doctor.  They got a neighbor to take her and Margaret went back home.

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