Friday, March 31, 2006

Jackson’s Room:

We’re staying in room 17, the same room we were in when Jackson was with us during the month of December. Without his chaise lounge chair from the pool, the room is more spacious. There are new bedspreads on the beds, but otherwise the room looks the same. We brought a suitcase for Jackson, or rather his family. It contains all of the clothes and other things—a Bible, some pictures—he brought with him and also pictures from his funeral, a CD player Jackson was given in the hospital, a stone with his name carved on it and some other items. It’s a heavy suitcase. We will also be giving his mother some money from the memorials that were given in his memory.

It may seem morbid to have pictures of Jackson after he died and of his visitation, funeral, and burial, but our thoughts that they will be important to his family were confirmed today with a phone call. I was speaking with Sister Rose, who helped us get a U.S. visa for a child. She had talked on the phone a couple of times with Jackson’s sister, Nadia. Nadia asked Sister, “Did Jackson really die?”

This isn’t as strange a question as it might seem. I remember when my Uncle Joe died suddenly of a heart attack in NYC. We had his body cremated and never saw him after he died. His death had such an unreal feeling about it—don’t they all?—made more acute by never seeing his body. I kept wondering/hoping if possibly a mistake had been made. I can imagine a Haitian family going through the same process with even more disbelief: Jackson died in another country, a place he had come twice before and gotten better. Plus his relatives weren’t able to participate in the funeral or burial. We are hopeful that the pictures and other items will help the family in their grieving.

A couple of employees at the place where we are staying have asked about Jackson. One of them shrugged his shoulders when we told him that Jackson died. “That’s the way it goes,” he said. “You did everything you could for him.” With a sky high child mortality rate and an average life span that doesn’t reach 50, Haitians are used to dealing with death. Jackson’s family is no exception: his mother has lost her husband and two other sons.

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