Winter in Bush Alaska is difficult and dangerous. There have already been several deaths in two villages we serve in SW Alaska. All of these deaths have been tragic. One involved a six year old boy.
The death of a family member or friend in the Bush is experienced a bit differently than we experience it in urban society. In a remote village there is no funeral industry that provides the services we are accustomed to. And, importantly the person who has passed away has lived their entire life in the local community. They have been known from birth. When a member of a remote community dies the family prepares the body for burial. The body remains in the home for two days. People sit with the body and speak in whispered tones. Curious children come to see what is happening. A coffin is build by local people of local materials. Life in the village essentially stops for about three days. At the funeral, the wooden church will be filled. Often many will be standing outside regardless of the weather. The burial will take place in a grave chipped from frozen ground. Afterward, the entire village is invited to a fellowship meal of traditional food.
Grief in the bush seems to linger. It is very likely that those who have died this winter will be talked about this coming summer when our VBS teams arrive. This provides an opportunity to listen and share in the grief. It is also an opportunity to offer the hope we have in Jesus. Pray that this will happen.