black and white of a group of boys carrying a coffin

No Tears For the Young

we watched him lain final
life barely begun
just 20 years old
his song yet unsung

and I wondered where God was
to tell what he’d done
but the silence it stationed
no tears for the young

and she called and she called
“I see you my son …”
and I wondered where God was
no tears for the young

the rain down it poured
as we stood and we sung
but mother kneeled silent
in a prayer for her son

and I wondered where God was
as her pain soared and stung
but the silence it stationed
no tears for the young

and she called and she called
“I see you my son …”
and I wondered where God was
no tears for the young

and the rain down it poured
as we walked all as one
behind that slow station
bearing the young

and I think I saw God then
through a glimpse at the sun
in the depth of his rain
sending tears for the young

and she called and she called
“I love you my son …”
and I think I saw God then
in his tears for the young

© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine


Over the weekend Jerry and I attended two funerals. The first was for his cousin in the pouring rain. Jerry’s cousin was electrocuted during on-the-job training on 22 July. He dreamed of being a pilot and was studying aeronautics: he had just three months until graduation. Teerence Bagaforo Martinez was only 20 years old and carrying lengths of metal pipe, he slipped on a wet floor and the pipes struck overhead electricity lines.

If you follow my blog you know I am very sensitive to safety issues for workers here in the Philippines and this tragedy is sadly another poignant example. Apparently the power had been disconnected on the wrong building site and Teerence was killed instantly.

Death itself is so casual.

Here in the Philippines most people wear white to funerals. After being released from the morgue the body will be displayed in the family home for usually 2-3 weeks until the burial or ‘lubong’. The family extends their hospitality to visitors, relatives and guests by providing coffee, softdrinks, meals and snacks. Even the poorest of families will borrow money to feed their guests.

Visitors pay tribute by leaving a cash donation to help with funeral costs. Outside the home tarpaulins are erected and gaming tables setup and all proceeds are given to the family. On the last night before the funeral, the family and guests usually stay awake the whole evening with their loved one. It is a very emotional time when the coffin is finally taken to the church, and if you look in the video you will see the small children waving goodbye. You might also hear their little voices saying ‘goodbye Uncle Teerence’.

After the coffin is loaded into the hearse (please note the employer paid for funeral costs as this  family would never have been able to afford to hire a vehicle like that) and slowly driven to the church. Family members will ride in the hearse and everyone else walks along behind. Teerence’s mother and siblings rode in the hearse but his father walked directly behind his son.

When the family home is a long distance from the church and cemetery, barangay officials will usually donate trucks and tricycles to transport the children and elderly. Inside the church, family and guests will be photographed alongside the open coffin (the taking of video is encouraged) so please don’t think I am being disrespectful by sharing these images here today.

After the church service the coffin and family are driven to the cemetery, everyone else walking or riding behind in tribute. You can see here that it poured rain the whole way and I’m sure you will notice all the children unable to contain their joy and sense of fun at riding in the rain. If you look in the motorbike trailer travelling ahead of my tricycle you might notice a really old lady squatting with a baseball cap tucked over her head, despite her age she jumped into that trailer easily. Jerry rode in a different tricycle with all the kids and I squeezed in with another of Jerry’s cousins. They absolutely refused to let me walk.

I hope this poem and the photographs in some small way honours the pain of his mother and family. This tragic loss of a young man was easily preventable and a terrible reminder of the vulnerability of our youth in the workplace wherever it may be.

Barangay Officials walk with the mourners

Comments

10 comments on “No Tears For the Young”
  1. “no tears for the young…” searingly beautiful. You must enter this in a worthwhile contest. It deserves recognition and a wide audience.
    I am sorry for your loss.

    1. Thank you for reading the poem Susan, I’m thinking about submitting it to Chicken Soup for the Soul. They have a new book coming out on themed ‘Redemption’ and I thought it might fit there. I appreciate the support and encouragement. Mel.

  2. us4p says:

    Very sad. Your description makes me feel impotent.

    1. It was very sad Mery and I felt that way too. Writing a poem and making the video was the only thing I felt I could do. Thanks for reading. Mel.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this poem. It was a very emotional day and I wanted to honour the family. Mel.

      1. You certainly did that.. and more! Simply beautiful!

  3. ksbeth says:

    this is so powerful and sad and beautiful, all at the same time.

    1. Thank you. I was so overwhelmed with emotion I knew I wanted to write something for his mother. It’s hard not to question your faith at these ties. Mel.

      1. ksbeth says:

        My mother was named Amelia and went by Mel as well)

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