Widows wear white

This email was sent to be posted for the first weekend in February, but got moved to this week:

Subadra’s husband died early on Saturday morning.  She had left him at the hospital on Friday evening, reassured that everything would be okay since he had spoken to her and was on oxygen, as well as getting IV fluids and medicines.

Although she found it hard to fall asleep after getting home on that evening, she had eventually dropped off in the early hours of Saturday morning.  The next thing she knew, she was awakened between 7 and 8 am by the sounds of a vehicle arriving, and lots of voices.  It was the sound of her sons bringing the body of her husband by the house – in order to get everything needed to drive down to the river in Ramdi where the body would be cremated.  Subadra wept as she said, “I didn’t get to say goodbye….”

We heard the news from a friend of ours and a family member of Subadra’s on Sunday.  As is often the case, we wondered what exactly was the right thing to do…  We have known Subadra for many years, as she has worked as a house helper in missionary homes.   Subadra and her family are not only very staunch Hindus, but they are also Brahmin – the highest caste.  There are so many rules and restrictions in their lives – it always reminds me of the joy of being free in Christ – and so very thankful for His sacrifice for us!

After some discussion, we decided we would go to visit Subadra on Tuesday, so Les could go as that was his day off this week.  We were reminded by our house-helper that we should not “do Namaste” in a house of mourning.  (In other words, we were not to greet them with the traditional greeting, or to put our hands together as part of that greeting.)  “What shall we take to offer to them?”  we asked again to make sure…  The only acceptable gifts from non-family are gifts of fruit – but it cannot be bananas.  So – we purchased some grapes, apples and pomegranates and walked down to Subadra’s house.

We were intercepted at the front door – which is actually the door to a shop (which was closed) where the sons sell building supplies.  Subadra was downstairs we were informed, and were shown the way.  We removed our shoes, and entered the room.  It was lit by just one electric bulb – there were no windows in the room.  It was a cement room – and one side was filled with all the furnishings that had been set up nicely in the room previously.  They were all thrown and piled on one side, and a temporary plywood barrier had been put up.  In between that and another plywood “wall” was Subadra.  She was sitting on a blanket covering a pile of straw.  She was dressed all in white – one cloth wrapped around her like a sari without the blouse, and another cloth was wrapped around her head and upper body like a shawl.  We had to sit a distance from her on another mat – touching her would be strictly forbidden.  Her daughter, granddaughter, and daughter in law were sitting on another bench on the other side of the room.

For 13 days, Subadra will sit in that room – grieving the loss of her husband – and also probably wondering what the rest of her life will be like.  Becoming a widow in Nepal is so difficult – she cannot remarry, and can never again wear the color red.  She will be reliant on her sons to take care of her now – she has 2, so that makes her more fortunate than some.

During this period of what is known as “criya” , she will have restrictions on how and when she can bathe, what she can wear, where she can go, to whom she can speak, and what she can eat.  No salt is allowed during the 13 days – every morning, she will go to the public water tap to wash, then she returns to her small “corner” where she has to cook her own rice.  She can eat that with some ghee, along with some lemon, ginger, and/or white radish.  She can also eat some fruit – which others can cut for her, but then she washes with her own water before she eats.  In the evenings, she can only eat fruit.

On the 13th day, she will wash and put on clean clothes (she can choose to either continue wearing all white – even for up to one year – or she can wear other colors as long as it isn’t red) and that day she can again eat salt and other foods.

Her two sons also are required to wear white for the 13 days and to do the daily restrictions of washing and special diet.  White is the color of mourning here in Nepal – which is one reason many in the church find it a bit difficult when brides want to follow the western tradition of wearing white.  The traditional bridal dress in Nepal is red.

So – we tried to encourage Subadra during our visit – but other than to be there to show that we care, there wasn’t much we could do.  She did ask us to come again – which we found encouraging.

Please pray for Subadra and her family.  One of her granddaughters is attending a private school run by believers here in town – perhaps the seeds of faith about which Subadra has heard over the years through her work with missionaries will be watered as her granddaughter shares what she has learned at school….  And we ask for continued prayers for wisdom in how to show God’s love to the many people around us so desperately in need of it!



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6 responses to “Widows wear white

  1. Sarah Acland

    I remember meeting Subadra , but I don’t remember where. If you get a chance tell her that I too am thinking of her. I’m sure she doesn’t remember me! I remember sitting with my landlady when her brother died, it was dark but peaceful just as you describe. It wasn’t necessary to say anything, it seemed.

    Sent from my iPad Sarah Acland

  2. Bev Crocker

    This is REALLY interesting!

    >________________________________ > From: Hope for the Hills >To: crockerbg50@sbcglobal.net >Sent: Monday, February 10, 2014 8:11 AM >Subject: [New post] Widows wear white > > > > WordPress.com >dornonmission posted: “This email was sent to be posted for the first weekend in February, but got moved to this week: Subadra’s husband died early on Saturday morning.  She had left him at the hospital on Friday evening, reassured that everything would be okay since he had ” >

  3. Dear Debbie and Les,
    Thank you for this detailed description of the ‘do’,and ‘don’t’ things in the mourning period in Hinduism. As you rightly observe, thanks to God we have freedom in Him, knowing our destination and the assurance we have as His children.
    Thank you for your sensitivity which prevented blunders that we so often, inadvertently, make in dealing with other cultures and languages.
    We pray that Subadra and her sons may learn from the children what it means to be a Christian, freed from sins and guilt’
    Lots LOVE, Risto and Martje

  4. Mary Thoresen

    Debbie, I can just see Subhadra in my mind, and my heart aches for her. She was always so stern. I know there was and is a softer heart inside, but for now, it is a heavily grieving heart. I will forward your blog on to the people that she worked for when we were there- Wayne and Pat Thorpe.
    I will be praying for her.

  5. Joline

    Will pray for her too,
    Thanks for your story. That makes Nepal so much closer for me.

    Love, Joline (one of the dutch girls)

  6. Margaret Fain

    HI Deb & Les, Thanks for this, so interesting. Shows how we are all the same but culture makes us so different. Stay well.
    Love, Maggie & Dick

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