Peru goes to great effort to reduce child trafficking. One of the rules they've instituted is that minor children not accompanied by both parents cannot leave the country without a notarized authorization from the parent that isn't traveling with them. This is probably good to keep an angry spouse from taking the kids to some other country without telling the other parent. What does one do if he is the only parent after the other one dies? Our mission secretary told me that I would need to take the death certificate with me to the airport. Check. Death certificate. Got it the morning after Amy died. When we arrived in Lima on Monday to get my residency card the mission secretary revised her advice and told me that the death certificate isn't enough. One has to go to a notary and have them give me an authorization to travel. "Why isn't a death certificate enough?" "They are too many fake death certificates out there," was the reply. "But isn't it just as easy to get a fake authorization from a notary?" is the next obvious question that no one can answer adequately. Okay. No problem. We went to the notary, where they requested birth certificates for the kids. "Here you go!" I said preparedly. "These are several years old. You need new ones." was the reply. How would a new birth certificate show that Amy and I are the true parents better than an older one that I had? That's the way it is. We went to another notary. After looking over my papers they concluded "Your death certificate is from a different region. We can't verify its authenticy." Panic started to swell as I wondered what I would do if no notary would give me my authorization. Thankfully, the third notary seemed to know what she was doing and was reasonable in trusting my children's birth certificates, national identity cards and passports and wrote up the authorization. Whew! So we were able to fly to the US this morning and are here in Omaha making preparations for Saturday's memorial service at Christ Community Church at 11 am. After the 2nd notary, we were going to go to downtown Lima to the birth certificate office (RENIEC) to have them verify Amy's death certificate, but providentially (I truly believe God had his hand in this) all four taxis we stopped and asked for a ride said they wouldn't take us. That closed door led us to the third notary who gave us the authorization.
Despite being our first Mother's Day and Amy and my 23rd anniversary, yesterday wasn't a bad day. If anything I felt that we could relax a bit, even though we needed to pack up for our trip back to the USA. We decided to go to church last night, risking experiencing emotional Mother's Day tributes. The pastor had all the mothers go up front and be recognized and they were each given a present. Even more time was spent thanking Sarah for helping teach Sunday School kids for the last 3 months while she's been here. The kids absolutely adore her and she will miss them even more than they'll miss her I suspect.
Good job, Sarah! You make me very proud!
I thought it was a pretty normal funeral. Actually, everything went splendidly. But it was quite different from a normal Peruvian funeral, so it took a lot of patient explaining that we were doing things the way we did. In Peru, when someone dies, usually the body is left in the house and put on display ensconced in curtains and shiny pillars. People come and visit, usually whispering quietly. We had the undertaker take Amy's body to the funeral home shortly after she died on Thursday night and Friday we had an open house and I estimate 75 people came and visited in a house that was far from quiet. All of the kids had friends come and visit, and they entertained themselves around the house while the adults visited. The other SIM missionaries took shifts keeping the kitchen hopping and the dining room full of inviting sandwiches and goodies. We chased everyone out at 5:30 pm and went out for pizza at Papa John's and went to bed exhausted.
This morning we finished printing out the funeral programs and delivered the flowers to the Family Focus Center. We all dressed in black and went over to the center at 10 am. The funeral home brought Amy in a glass-enclosed casket at 10:30, about 30 minutes later than planned. I wasn't getting nervous yet. But at 11 am, the funeral starting time, only about 40 people were there.
Now I was starting to get concerned. Was a funeral for and by foreigners too strange and scary to attend? What are we going to do with food for 300 people? But suddenly, lots of people started showing up and we started about 20 minutes late. By noon almost all of the 250 chairs were filled, and all were filled by the end of the service with a comfortable number standing in the back. It was such a nice service, with a song by the other missionaries, stories shared by many, and a succinct message by the pastor on salvation. The facilities were super, with great music and sound and it wasn't too hot despite the sun beating down on the roof.
After dinner, the undertaker returned (it seemed odd to me that they didn't stay for the funeral. They just left the casket at 10:30 and came back at 2:30) to get Amy's body and we followed them to the crematorium. On the way there, we got stuck in a traffic jam of Holsteins. You can see the crematorium chapel in the distance.
Once we arrived, we had to fill out a bunch of forms and give them copies of our passports and the death certificate. They took Amy's fingerprints and toe prints (Interpol has her fingerprints, but who could possibly verify her toe prints?!) before she was cremated.
The kids each had tons of friends at the funeral and many came over to the house afterwards as well which was great. Thanks for all of your prayers and well wishes. Sorry that I can't respond to each of them personally.
Amy's memorial service in Omaha will be on Saturday, May 14th at 11 am at Christ Community Church (404 S. 108th Ave).
With a heavy heart I must make this post, this afternoon at 3:45 pm, Amy went to heaven.
The funeral will be Saturday at 11 am at Enfoque Familiar near our home.
Visitors will be received tomorrow from 10 am until 5 pm at our home.
Thanks for your prayers,
Allen and the kids
Since yesterday afternoon Amy has been doing poorly. Her O2Sats are around 70 right now (for non-medical people that tells how well her hemoglobin is carrying oxygen and 70 is terrible, even at our altitude) and she can't swallow and is really gurgly when she breathes. I skipped the team meeting today to stay with her.
Ice cream, especially the type I make, is extremely calorie-dense. I once weighed more than I wanted to weigh and weighed myself daily and plotted my weights on the fridge door as a reminder. I didn't allow myself to eat icecream as long as I was over 170 pounds. It was a great motivator for me, and it worked to get the pounds off. But it is a great way to put the pounds on too, and today Amy actually ate a small bowl of icecream after her bath. Initially, I brought her just a couple of bites, since I thought she probably wouldn't eat it, but after she finished it I asked, "Would you like some more ice cream?" and she clearly replied, "I would!" But since then, she's been pretty non-responsive. It's amazing she can go up and down so much.
I've finally found the perfect way to give her something to drink. A bike water bottle! Mine has graduations on the side to measure how much I give her and I can squirt water into her mouth without it running down the side of her face. After struggling with sippy cups (too slow) and bottles (too difficult to control) it really is perfect.
Since Amy can't move, she's susceptible to bed sores (the pressure of one's own body weight can reduce the circulation so much that it damages the skin, especially over pointier parts of the body). About a week ago, I mentioned here in my blog that her right heel was hurting and it was the beginnings of a bed sore. We quickly kept the pressure off of it and it heeled [ahem] up (which makes one wonder how it could heal with the almost complete lack of nutrition since she can't eat) but other sores have formed. Most are like the heel was and are just red tender areas, but one small area on her back broke the skin, so we are taking extra effort to protect it from pressure. This means, we have to rotate Amy every 2 to 3 hours. We could move her more frequently, but it is really uncomfortable for her to move. She mournfully and clearly cried, "That really hurts!" when we rotated her this afternoon. It hurts to hear her say it too. So 2 to 3 hours is our compromise between risking bed sores and the discomfort of being moved. At the moment her sores are pretty few and minor. Pray they continue to improve.
Today Amy has been more alert and responsive than she has for a few days. Just now, one of the neighbor dogs was barking and she put her extended finger up to her lips and made a 'shhhh!' noise! Earlier this morning, at the end of her bath, Sarah pulled out the drain and she became very upset and said, "I love the bath!" So we put in some more hot water and left her in the bath for another 10 minutes. She's drunk a fair amount of water as well today.
I'm surprised how our expectations have changed. These really small things seemed like big victories compared to how Amy's been lately.
"It is well-marked, so you can't get lost!" announced the race director of the 11-km trail run right before we started the race. I joked to the guy standing beside me, "I'll just follow the guys ahead of me!" This was a good strategy until shortly after running past a bunch of angry dogs at km 8, the 5 or 6 guys I could see ahead of me just stopped running as we reached the end of a ridge. Not a good sign. One pointed to the ridge a valley away from us where a string of runners was heading down the correct mountain! So we scrambled down the mountain to a dry creek bed that we followed until it connected to the right trail. I estimate our little detour added about 5-10 minutes to our times. I've been eyeing this race for a week or two and decided I would see how Amy was doing this morning and go if she seemed stable, which she was. She's had a pretty uneventful day, sleeping comfortably most of the day. I've been eating enough for both of us, though I'd gladly give her all of my food and fast instead. She's down to 40.8 kg (90 lbs.) today.