Ezra, is the 3 year old son of the Pastor Eric and Peace.

Almost everyday, as I walk to the clinic I pass Peace and Ezra walking towards me on their way to daycare. Ezra always gave me a wave and a big smile. Sometimes I wondered if he was saying “Hello” or was it “Goodbye”.

In January, Pastor Eric, Kibaale Community Centre Chaplain came and told me that Ezra was taken to Masaka Regional Hospital to be seen by a dentist. He had a toothache. The tooth was pulled.

A few weeks later, Eric brought Ezra to the clinic because his eyes were not focusing. He was not able to follow an object, turn his head towards the person who was speaking. In fact, his head was slightly turned to one side. After discussions with the Clinic Officers and comprehensive nurse, Ezra was referred to Masaka Regional Hospital two hours north of Kibaale to see an eye specialist. Masaka recommended a doctor in Mbarara two hours west of Masaka. This specialist stated that with time, the boy would be fine. He gave them vitamins and suggested they come back a few months.

Then a few weeks after the problem with his eyes, Ezra was not able to walk, nor to stand. His arms and legs did not move normally. He was too weak to move on his own. These new symptoms brought us to the realization that he needed to be seen by a neurologist, a brain specialist. He would have to travel to Kampala to the government hospital called Mulago. The clinic staff knew no one in Mulago Hospital. It took a few hours to find a neurologist, learn that he would be in his office the next day and that he would see Ezra. Immediately, the specialist recommended a CT scan. Unfortunately, the contrast needed to visualize the brain was not available. Eric was not willing to wait. He searched out a private hospital called Kampala Private Hospital. He found the Professor, an neurologist. A CT scan was taken. The cost of a visit to the private neurologist, tests, CT scan and treatment for three days was extremely expensive. Kibaale Community Centre clinic referred Ezra, therefore, the bills would be paid.

After reviewing the CT scan, the Professor stated that Ezra had a lesion which he thought was some type of infection or T.B. (tuberculosis).The family was finally sent home after a few days in hospital on intravenous antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis drugs. The Professor wanted to see them again the next Saturday. Of course, they were sent home with lots of medications.
Now, it is a long way from Kibaale to Kampala. If you take the morning bus which leaves Kibaale at 4 am you will arrive in Kampala by 10 am. It is somewhat expensive. A cheaper method is to take small buses which stop frequently. The drive wants to make the most money so he stuffs his vehicle with as many people as he possible.

That next Saturday, Eric and Peace carefully carried their son from Kibaale to Kampala through all the hazards of Uganda travel to see the Professor. He was somewhat pleased with the way the treatment was going and send them home on the same medications. He wanted to see them one more time that next Saturday.

It was an significant challenge to travel with Ezra and everything else back and forth from Kibaale to Kampala. Was it necessary? If Ezra was not getting worse could they wait a week before traveling back to Kampala? On Wednesday afternoon, Eric and Peace along with Ezra visited the clinic. Ezra was not getting worse but was also not getting better. The clinic staff called and spoke with the Professor who recommended another visit.

Early Saturday morning, Eric and Peace took Ezra once again to Kampala Hospital. Once the Professor saw Ezra he recommended another CT scan…. The results were not good. The lesion had increases significantly. It was not TB and it was not an infection. Whatever the cause of the lesion, it was obstructing the flow of cerebral fluids. Neurosurgery, an operation of the brain would need to be done immediately. The plan was for surgery early Monday morning but since Eric and Peace did not have the funds for the surgery to be done at this private hospital, Ezra was moved to the government hospital, Mulago.

It was just after midnight when Ezra was finally admitted and but into a bed. He had the same neurosurgeon. It seems that many of the specialist cannot survive working just for the government. The Professor worked in Kampala private Hospital and he was the head of the neurosurgery department in Mulago government Hospital. Ezra appeared to be in good hands.

It was 2 am when I got the call from Pastor Eric to tell me that Ezra had died.

I have never gone to a funeral. I have avoided them. I guess because the first time I was intending to go, someone told me that as the only “mzungu” white person it was expected that I give a speech.

I was planning on going to Ezra’s funeral. I wanted to support Eric a loving father, a great pastor, an amazing chaplain as well as Peace, a gentle and loving mother, a kind and thoughtful woman of God.

Funeral in Uganda start at 2 pm. We closed the clinic at noon so all the staff could attend Ezra’s funeral. In many ways it is similar to the funerals I have attended in Canada. There is one basic difference, the Ugandan ones are less formal and more fluid. Make shift tents were spread out in front of Eric and Peace’s home. People brought chairs and benches. Under the main tent was the body of Ezra circles by his family and loved ones. To one side of the main tent was a PA system used by each of the speakers. Everything was translated. The last speaker was another local pastor. He spoke about Ezra and how much his family will miss him, that he is now in Heaven looking down on his family and watching what they will do now and in the future. He ended with this question to us all.. “When you die where will you go?”

Once the informal funeral service was over, the majority of the people walked down the road to an unkempt field. It did not appear to be a cemetery; there were no grave markers. It was a humble piece of land covered with prickly shrubs. At the far end of the open patch was a small hole in the ground. As I approached the site…. singing broke out and everyone joined in. It was hard for me to see exactly what was happening…. but during the fourth or fifth song, the small body of Ezra was placed into the ground. Screams erupted. Loud sobs exploded across the 500 plus people. Singing continued as the body was put into the ground and slowly covered with earth; many of the men took turns. The local pastor completed the burial with a simple prayer and a benediction.

The clinic staff and all the community are asking the questions “Why did it have to happen to Eric and Peace, they had already lost their oldest son, Paul to Malaria at at about the same age.” “what caused Ezra’s death?” “What could we have done differently?” “Why did it happen to such a young innocent little boy?”

Ezra had amazing parents. He was loved. He was cared for. When he got sick Eric and Peace found help and would not be deterred by any obstacle………