Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ups and Downs in Chacala

This past week in Chacala has had its ups and downs. The Up was the celebration of National Mariner’s Day, and the dance at the Muelle that evening. There was a great band, with good music, layed The Down was the death of three Chacala women. All on different days and of “natural” causes.Although I knew all three of the women, one was someone special to me. Maria. Otherwise known as Pilila. She was the tiny little woman who often walked through Chacala with a large load of something balanced on her head. She was a bundle of energy and ideas, and will be missed by her many friends.

She and her husband of 28 years, Butcho, lived in a kind of outdoor space next door to Laura Sura’s. They actually had small cement block house, or bedroom, but they spent almost all their time outside. In the shade under the trees, surrounded by their cats, kittens, dogs, puppies, ducks, chickens, rabbits, birds, and whatever live thing that came their way. And lots of beautiful plants. And a small food garden. I think it’s the only one in Chacala.

Maria was diagnosed with severe liver disease maybe a month ago. She spent most of her last month resting on her chaise lounge, surrounded by her animals and friends.When the sun started getting really hot a few days ago, Maria and Butcho built a little shade shelter out of some cloth she had collected. Her best friend here in Chacala, Laura, took her into Las Varas for medical care and made sure there was enough money to pay for medications.By this Saturday morning Maria was very ill, and Laura took her to Las Varas to the clinic and then to Tepic, where Maria died. On Saturday evening the giant shade tent from the big dance on the Muelle was moved over to Maria and Butcho’s place and set up. As was the display from the funeral home. When I left at dark, Maria had not been returned to Chacala. But she came home sometime in the night. People sat with her all night, until she was taken to La Penita for the burial.

Saturday at 1pm she was buried at the cemetery in La Penita, at Maria’s request. Next to her mother. Lots of Chacala people were are the funeral, under the blazing sun. Today will be the start of the nine days of prayers. I think it’s called a Novena. It will be held at Maria and Butcho’s at 4pm. There will probably be plastic chairs to sit on, under the shade shelter.

This is the first death of someone in Chacala who I considered to be a friend. And I guess other people thought I was Maria’s friend too, because 5 different people came to tell me she when she died. So I could up to her place.

We mostly told stories while we were waiting into the night for her to back to Chacala. And there were lots of stories to tell. Some of them pretty risqué. Most of the funny.

I tried to visit Maria every other day once Maria became so ill. Sometimes I missed a day. But I really liked hanging out with her. Especially when it was just to two of us, and Butcho. And all the dogs and cats and animals.Maria wanted me to take photos of her every visit, and mostly I did. I tried to bring pretty little gifts, and stuff like pillows and food. For them and for the animals. I think there are still expenses from Maria’s last day and the funeral service. I am not sure how that is being paid for. Probably contributions from friends in Chacala.

I loved it when other people were visiting Maria when I was there. Usually is was older women. And there would be lots of laughing and joking and visiting. I am glad Maria got to be at home until the last few hours of her life.

I am worried for Butcho now. He is 77 or so. Very fit. And a hard worker. You never know about other people’s relationships, but I had the impression Maria was the center of his life. I hope he does okay.

I will miss Maria very much. The three summers (six month long summers) I was living at Gordon’s, she visited a lot. I would hear her calling as she came up the driveway. “Amiga!!!, Amiga!!!,” she would call.

And most of those summer evenings, when I walked by her little home at the wooded area in the back of their lot, Maria would always call out, “Amiga, Amiga”, wanting me to come and visit. She was so much fun and so interesting.She knew a lot about plants and herbs, and was always full of enthusiasm. She made decorations for her home and for the town and church for all the celebrations. I always knew when the next holiday was coming, because Maria would come up for a donation for paper or paint or whatever she needed. Or she would go right over to my work table and point out what she needed. It was very nice for me to feel like I could contribute something to town celebrations.

Anyway, I will miss Maria, Pilila. And I am glad we will sit for awhile and remember her each day for the next 9 days. I like that a lot.

Later. I went over to Maria’s a little while ago and sat with the other women. And Butcho, and some babies and children. There were flowers and lit candles and photos of Guadalupe and Maria. And they said the Rosary.I kept thinking about how nice it must be to know that people who care about you will remember you and celebrate your life. And to sit with your body all night, until the burial. And pray for you for nine days after you die. I think it must be comforting to know what will happen after you die. Of course, who knows what happens later. If anything.


myahspirit said...

I am so sorry to learn of the passing of this women. It is hard on everyone to lose someone you have came to know.
Also love your pictures. I miss being there.

Dan said...

I am sorry to hear that you lost your friend. It sounds like she was surrounded by love, and who could want more than that?

Ramona said...

Andee - thank you for your lovely tribute of Maria in pictures and words. I remember meeting Maria when we visited Chacala. We were out in front of her place, visiting with the fruit vendor, and she called out to us, then came out and greeted us so cheerfully. It is wonderful that she could be at home until the end, and didn't have to spend years (or even weeks or months) in a lonely nursing home. It's great to be loved and to have caregivers nearby. Thanks again for sharing about her last days.
~Ramona in Alaska