One thing that is different here in Haiti then what I had experienced while growing up in the US is that the dead are not protected from onlookers. Before coming here I had seen at least one blanket covered body lying beside an accident site but never one where the body would lie there unprotected for all to see. Here a death attracts crowds. There is usually a circle of people who just stand hanging over the body and gaze like it was something they had never seen before. This has always amazed me since there is so much more “open” death here. They don’t usually sterilize death here by putting the dying in a curtained area in a hospital room so family and religious leaders can pray and sing hymns as the loved one leaves the earthly life. That’s the way I remember it was when my father and mother died.
When a parent or elder in the majority of Haitian families die they usually die at home with all the kids and neighbors around staring as the person passes on. It’s noisy. Usually at least one of the kids or attendees are screaming and letting God know that it isn’t time for this person they love so much to die. This is often done by a person who doesn’t even know the dying person. Even on the roads or highways when there are persons who are hit by a car and die or who are sick and just happen to be in public when they die there is usually a group of persons who simply gather in a circle around the body and gaze. Why?
That wasn’t the way it was yesterday morning though. As I went down Montagne Noire (Black Mountain), where I live. There were a few persons standing in the general area of a body but none seemed to have a desire to stand too close. No prayers for this guy. The body of the man who was probably younger then 30 years old and was lying on the left roadway which made it easy for me to avoid it. As I drove by I noticed that it had been an awful death. I can’t say that there were gun shots in the body but it had been badly bruised and beaten before finding its final home on the blacktop. All I could think was “I hope this wasn’t here when Jessica and Jodie went by here to school this morning.” It was. That was the first thing Jodie asked me about when we talked later.
I’m not sure how long this young man’s body had lain there. But on my return after a couple of hours it was gone. That was good. I have seen them lie in the road for three days before taken away. I haven’t heard any of the stories about what really happened but only because I didn’t feel all that safe to ask.
And so it goes! Life in Haiti.