Monday, February 04, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Baba Hanya

Some time early Sunday morning, Baba Hanya passed away after a short illness. Today we held a funeral for her in the village of Kozhenykiy where she lived. No one knows for sure how old she was. Even Baba Hanya wasn't sure what year she was born in. She only knew that she was in her 70's and her family was too poor to keep track of things like when their children were born. They were more concerned with keeping track of how many of their children survived according to what we were told.

Babya Hanya was our friend Maria's great aunt on her mother's side. We first met her last summer when she was in the hospital. Later we helped harvest her and her brother Serhiy's potatoes. Baba Hanya was so sweet to us and the boys really liked her. We were looking forward to helping her out again this Spring.

Outside Baba Hanya's Home
Preaching a short message outside of Baba Hanya's home

Edna and I took a bus to Kozhenykiy with Maria's sister Nastia this morning to help prepare for the funeral. We began in Baba Hanya's house where we prepared a room so that friends and neighbors could view her. We began the service when the pastor from our church arrived along with two other pastors from Kyiv. I was blessed to be able to say a few words about Baba Hanya and her family after we took her out of the house where people were gathering before the procession to the cemetery.

On the way to the cemetery
Walking to the cemetery

We carried Baba Hanya a short distance down the dirt road leading away from her home. We placed her on a flatbed truck that carried her the remaining mile or so up the hill to the cemetery. The women carried the flowers and funeral decorations ahead of the truck along with a portrait of Baba Hanya. I was surprised that even some of the more frail looking older women seemed to have no trouble trekking up the hill. Ukrainian babusyas (grandmas) are known for being tough and today I realized how harsh village life has made "being tough" a necessity for survival. They certainly have my respect.

Baba Hanya's Funeral

Baba Hanya's Funeral

One of the pastors from our sister church in Kyiv concluded the funeral at the cemetery and Baba Hanya's simple wooden casket adorned with fabric was lowered into the ground. In turn we each placed three handfuls of dirt into the grave before it was filled in. We then walked back to Baba Hanya's house to share a traditional multi-course meal together. This turned out to be an excellent opportunity for evangelism. Many of Baba Hanya's friends and neighbors eagerly listened to what the pastors had to say and joined them in prayer as we celebrated the hope of eternal life rather than mourn a death. Edna said it best when she mentioned to me that Baba Hanya's death may well have saved a life today as souls were won for Christ.

Nastia holding a portrait of Baba Hanya
Nastia holding a portrait of Baba Hanya

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