Mourning

Tonight the body of a volunteer teacher, the only daughter, returns to her grief stricken parents. She arrived on island only three weeks ago. A week ago on an outing to a waterfall, Lididuhniap, she was apparently climbing slippery rocks, and fell from a height onto the rocks below. There is no making sense of the loss of someone so young and full of the joy of life.

If you traveled from afar to go work in Chicago and two weeks after arriving passed away as the result of a tragic accident, few in Chicago other than your immediate co-workers would be aware of your passing. On Pohnpei the governor, the state director of education, the state coordinator, of secondary education, an ambassador, and over fifty other people gathered to mourn the loss. A choir sang and tears were shed.

I went not because I knew her, I did not. I only knew those who did. In the states there would have been little impetus for me to have attended a memorial service. By analogy, it would be as if someone recently hired by another company, not the one I was working for, had passed away. Although I have been away a long time, I cannot think of a situation in which I would be attending the memorial service for a new hire in another company in Chicago.

Pohnpei is different, much more closely related to a small town than a city. Culturally, those here on the island gather when there is a loss. Death is up close and personal here. On Pohnpei we may live on an island but on that island we live by the words of John Donne, "No man is an island... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls it tolls for thee." When the bell tolls, we gather as a community, as a family, knowing that the bell peals also for us.

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