Parked in front of a row of shops in Uganda, I heard someone in the row behind me say “coffins should never be made that small.” I turned my head and saw a shop full of wooden coffins, some for adults, some small enough for infants, and every size in between. As I watched the people passing by, I tried to imagine which of them had suffered that deep loss, the loss of their own child. Little did I know, that I would one day begin to understand the pain of that loss.
In February 2008, I received news that a little eight year old girl had lost her life. In that instant, my world was turned upside down. Mackie was a girl that I had met the previous summer in Uganda. She caught my attention the first day I met her. I saw her dancing and worshipping with a pure heart, a pure joy, that could only come from God. We instantly bonded and spent the remainder of my trip trying to communicate by drawing, playing and laughing together. On the last day, we both cried as we said goodbye and I held her, telling her that I would come back to see her again. Little did I know that God had different plans.
Three years later, I was is in Mackie’s village, visiting her family. Her sister took me to the edge of their property where the family had buried her. It was a humble grave, unidentified by anything more than a small, raised pile of red dirt. As soon as I saw it, those words flowed through my mind, “coffins should never be made that small.” Her sister and I began to remove the weeds that had grown over her grave, and I cried, thinking of this young life that was taken so unexpectedly. In that moment of sorrow, I felt a wave of grace and I pictured Mackie dancing and twirling, like she had years ago, but this time in front of her Daddy in Heaven. She was beautiful and I was overwhelmed with the peace of knowing that one day I would dance beside her as we worshipped the Lord together.
Today, I was reminded of that journey as I received news from Emily, saying that Jojo had passed away in his sleep last night. Anyone who met Jojo smiles at the mention of his name because they know his quirky facial expressions. They know the funny noises that he makes. They know the amazing cuddles that he gives. They know the smile that can melt your heart in an instant. For reasons we don’t know and may never understand, the Lord decided to take Jojo home last night and I know that he is now walking, and running and praising God in a way that he was never able to do in his previous body. I am grateful for the hope of knowing that I will see Jojo again in Heaven, but it does not make the pain of this loss any less real.
Please pray for the Ekisa family and everyone who was impacted by Jojo’s short life. He was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.