The day I buried 233 children
Kids in bottles, endless rows of shelf children stacked five deep. It took me an hour to count them. Not so much for my poor math skills, but it's hard to count what keeps tearing up the eyes. Every time I'd blow my nose, I'd have to start over from the beginning. I wasn't making any progress. Just making myself sick. Finally, I picked up the phone in the morgue and called up to my office, "I need Grace."
She came right on down. She's like that. Well named, and a better servant of God than I deserve – but what I need. "Sam, why are you crying?"
"I'm not crying. It's the dust. I have seasonal allergies to morgues."
Grace is sixty, plain as Methodist punch, and starchy as an Idaho potato. She just says, "Humph." Picks up the notebook, and we begin the count together. Once done and 233 children accounted for, she brings down labels, and for the next five hours, we name, baptize, bless, and anoint those kids.
For the ones that we can determine sex, we give a boy or girl's name. When in doubt, we wing it. It's not like it matters much, and yet it matters more than anything else we're ever going to do. Jesus Christ Almighty: it counts. I told Grace, "I've named two boys John already. Does this kid look like a Leon?"
She puts on her reading glasses. Tilts her long nose down a bit to take in the quart container child. "Sam, are you blind? That's a little girl for sure. I'm calling her after my daughter. She's Martha. Martha, it was, still is, and always going to be. I told Grace. "I figure I'll just put in for the last name Christ. So, Martha Christ got her label, a baptism, a blessing, and anointed with just enough holy oil to make the bottle a slight bit slippery.
"Sam, do you really need to put oil on the jar?"
I told her, "That's the problem with you, Mennonites. You're more plain than fancy."