The Journey Continues
Father Nazario Caparanga, CICMFather Nazario Caparanga CICM is a native of Bicol who joined the CICMs in 1994 and was ordained in 2001. He was assigned to Koza in the extreme north of Cameroon in 1999 and is presently still working there animating the community of Mazai.
Yes, I know her! Aside from being the wife of the community head, Digui, it was with Nganawa that I had my first pact of friendship here. This is demonstrated by drinking local wine with another, from a single cup filled to the brim, at the same time. I still recall her smile upon seeing my wet shirt afterward for some wine had dropped over on it.
Mourners express sympathy and support in the days following Nganawa's burial
Unknown illnessI remember Digui telling me that he had been spending their money for medicines and consultation fees for his wife. Accordingly, she had been to a local health center a number of times. Even so, her illness was never identified. Despite a prescription and the treatment she was undergoing, her condition did not improve -- she just kept getting more ill.
Hopeless caseI went with Nganawa to consult with a doctor and seek treatment in a nearby city. But when we returned for the findings, the doctor revealed that she simply did not know what the ailment was, or how to treat it. Frustrated, I tried to steal a look at the medical report myself, but could not make out any useful information. Soon after, Nganawa’s situation deteriorated. She was losing weight, could not stand anymore and was refusing to eat.
Nganawa was dying
To add to the despair, Digui was evidently losing patience and hope. He was just a poor farmer who had to feed his children and send them to school. He had already incurred debts, and further expenses for his wife could aggravate the whole family’s situation. It was during this time that the family members of Nganawa accused him of insensitivity for not pursuing further treatment for his wife. They even took Nganawa from his house and brought her back to the home of her parents. After taking her to a local healer who advised them to make a traditional sacrifice, no change had come. So, determined to prove that he did love and care for his wife, Digui retrieved Nganawa and asked me to come to the village with a car in order to drive them to a nearby hospital. She was admitted, but the attending doctor told me that it was too late to save her; she was dying. After five days in the hospital she was released. As I drove them back to Mazai the steering wheel seemed harder to me than before; not because of the crude road but because of the knowledge that Nganawa would sooner or later be gone.
Mblama, son of Digui and Nganawa
Nganawa’s Last MomentI went over to Mazai for a scheduled community meeting. Just before going back home, I passed by Digui’s house to see how Nganawa was doing. Because it was almost dark I found it difficult to find her room; I just followed the sounds of someone sobbing. I found myself standing in an even darker room, because there was no lamp, and the scene inside was one of gloom. The soft cry was coming from her mother. There was Nganawa with her head resting on her mother’s lap. Her situation had deteriorated enormously; she had become even thinner than the last time I saw her. Although breathing hoarsely and crying in pain, she still managed to open her eyes and recognize me. I felt her suffering just like her mother, just like her husband, just like those few friends who were around her, all weeping softly. As I saw it, death was imminent; she would not last until the next day.
A Prayer before DepartingFaced with the sad realization that her time had come, I talked to Digui. I proposed that we pray for his wife and for the family as well, and then give her Communion. Since he gladly accepted, I asked a catechist named Baldena to help me proceed with the prayer. We were inside Nganawa’s room; her mother, her husband, two or three of her friends were also present. Clasping between my palms a consecrated host that I took from their chapel nearby, I gave the opening prayer asking God to look kindly on Nganawa, to accompany her and her family in their suffering. Baldena started reading the Gospel text, which was that of Jesus showing compassion to a widow by raising back to life her only son. Right after the reading, Nganawa’s mother slipped out of the room wailing. We were left there in the room, looking at each other. We all knew that Nganawa was gone, but nobody dared to say a word. The catechist opened his eyes as if to confirm what we were all thinking. After doing so, he too went out sobbing. It was then confirmed; her pain had ended. Nganawa had finally left us. Sorrow was all over the house and the neighborhood. Friends and neighbors were all coming, weeping and crying. I still had with me the Body of Christ meant for Nganawa. I managed to open her mouth and gave her a small fragment of Christ’s body and I offered the rest to her husband.
Breaking the NewsWhen I went back to the parish it was already late and dark -- as dark as the mood that I had left in the village. I don’t know whether or not I was able to sleep that night. I just found myself waking up early with a heavy head. It was maybe because of the sad events of the day before -- but it was probably also because I spent the night thinking about how to break the news to Mblama, one of Nganawa’s sons who stayed in our mission center for his studies. It was the first time that I was asked to unfold such news.
Mblama, her son, should knowStill not knowing what to do, I left the parish heading for the center’s lodging place. There, I found the boys preparing to go to school. Some were already dressed and ready for school, while others were still washing and getting dressed. As always, they greeted me enthusiastically, though their faces showed wonder and puzzlement as to why I was there during that unexpected time. I asked for Mblama. Right away upon overhearing my voice, Mblama went out of the room and stood beside the door. He was already wearing his uniform and ready for school. I told him that he would not go to school today, but instead would come with me to his village. He just accepted what I told him and did not ask any questions.
We walked outside and once we got to the car, I broke the news of his mother’s death to him. I told him that we should go to his home to be with the family. Calmly, he told me that he understood, and that he needed first to go to his room to get a few things. After a few minutes I went to the room, too. Mblama had changed his clothes, and a friend from the village was helping him pack his little bag.
Evidently, the other boys had already been informed about the news that I brought Mblama. Temporarily, there was a stoppage of all the boys’ activity -- they watched us as we headed for the car and left the center for the village.
Continuing the JourneyMass was celebrated during Nganawa’s funeral. She was buried on the mountain in a parcel owned by her husband. After a week, Mblama went back to the center to continue his schooling.
Some time later, a marriage ceremony was celebrated in the village. It was that of Digui remarrying to a woman from an adjacent village. The two exchanged consent and promised fidelity: “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in health and in sickness, until death do us part.”
My own engagementThe marriage vow was a strong reminder to me of my engagement to the mission. I am called to journey with people, to reach out and to establish friendship with them. The journey further entails encouraging people to come out from their private worries, and to be concerned with others or with the community. It urges people to sit down together and reflect on their concerns; to pray and to act together.
Life, with all its conventions, will always present highs and lows, rain and sunshine, planting and harvesting. I truly feel blessed to be present with these people. They have deeply enriched me in continuing this journey of making God’s presence, with its values of love, solidarity and peace, felt and lived.
You may write to: Fr Nazario Caparanga CICM Paroisse St Pierre et Paul B.P. 40, Koza, Cameroon