Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rosary and Vigil in Alejandria

I was exhausted. But I’m sure not as tired as my Compañeras were – and all their family members.

I attended the Rosary and vigil Monday night at Elena’s house in Alejandria.  She was still there – in the casket.  She looked beautiful – almost smiling.  Margot, Blanca’s sister, said her face did that ‘spontaneously’ when they put the first injection of preservative liquid in her.  (Yes, the family does that). 
We didn’t get to Alejandria till about 6 p.m.  We had to wait for the pan dulce to finish cooking and also wait for Elida who was coming from Virginia. 
By the time we left the Pastoral House, it was getting dark – and it was very cloudy.  About a third of the way there it started raining – and not just a drizzle – making it quite soggy for the people in the back of the truck.  We had Elida, her daughter Lorena, Margarita and her pregnant sister Reina, and 3 women from Alejandria accompanying us.   Most of them were in the back with the tubs of sweet bread which were covered in plastic. Fortunately, someone thought to bring a tarp so they had me stop driving while they covered themselves. Blanca, Aminta and Reina were in the cab with me along with a bunch of things that for the vigil could not get wet. 
Alejandro was waiting for us at the turnoff to the road that leads to the other side of the ravine where about half the community lives.  He knows I don’t like to drive down into the ravine and then back up.  It is wicked steep and has a couple of scary turns. And it is worse when wet. So I ended up in the back of the truck for the ride down the hill.  He stopped about 30 yards from the bottom to check out how high the water was – it had been rising.  This would determine if we could even go on.  Blanca and I went down to look with him.  It wasn’t so bad: maybe a foot deep and not running too swiftly.  So he went back up for the truck and scooted across the water.  Blanca and I waited for him.  We thought he would stop so we could hop back on but no.  He continued on up the steep hill.  Blanca and I took off our shoes and we crossed the water on foot with Elmer’s helping hand.  So much for the bug spray I doused my feet with!

By the time we got up the hill everyone was soaked.  But it was still warm out so to me, it felt good to be a bit wet.  Blanca and I washed our feet since we walked up the hill barefooted and were quite muddy.

People got settled.  Those who were going to help prepare the snacks stayed behind in Blanca’s mother’s house.  I was told to go up to Elena’s house and be with the people.  There were not too many people yet.  So we waited and chatted a little.  In between chatter, we contemplated the life and death of loved ones (I did anyway – I’m not sure what others were thinking).
I did not want to use the flash ... I felt funny enough taking the photo. 
With the storms, there was also no electricity so all we had were the 4 candles and a gas-type lantern hung from the rafters.

People straggled in.  By 7:30 it was time to start.  Balmore welcomed all and said a few kind words to all that were present to accompany the family in their sadness.  Elida was asked to do the first reflection.  This was followed by the first Rosary which lasts about a half hour.  Then we had about a 10 minute rest.  Then there was another reflection done by Balmore which was followed by another Rosary.  Then another 10 minute rest.  Then Jesús did yet another reflection which was followed by yet another Rosary.
We were done with the prayers by 10:30.  This was the very first vigil I have ever attended so I wasn’t sure if we were done.  But turned out we were.  With the prayer anyway. 

By this time there were at least 40 people standing and sitting outside the house and between 40-50 people jammed inside Elena’s house.  “Walls” had been moved to create one larger room.  (Remember that many walls here are just sheets or tarp separating space).  There was a beautiful altar created – a table with lots of flowers and religious items.  The casket was elevated on stands in front of that.  And there were 4 very tall pillar candles on each side of the casket and an ‘oil’ candle under.  And there were flowers in abundance all around and on top of the altar and casket.  None of the flowers were purchased – all came from people’s homes and arranged in whatever container could be found: 2 liter soda bottles cut in half, old paint cans with newspaper wrapped around them, etc.
At about 12:30 a.m., Cecilia came up to me and asked if I wanted to rest a bit.  I said no at first, but then Elida and Lorena were going to rest so I decided to join them.  We walked down the very slippery and muddy path to Celilia’s mother’s house and we were shown where we could rest.  There were 2 beds in one of the ‘room’s.  We all needed to avail ourselves to the bathroom facilities and we went together to share flashlights.  Idalia had baby wipes so we could clean our feet.  We slept in our clothes.  By the time we got settled in, it was well after 1 a.m.  Elida’s phone kept going off – it rained really strong a couple of times (and is like thunder on the lamina roofs), the roosters sang (loudly), and people were coming and going so it wasn’t a huge sleep we got.  But it was more than some people got.  I was grateful for the rest.  By 4 a.m., Elida decided we needed to go back up to Elena’s house to accompany the family once again.  So up we popped, put on our sandals, made a trip to the bathroom and began the slippery trek back up.

Most of the people had left. People had come from El Recreo, Berlín, Hacienda Nueva, Loma Alta and of course, Alejandria.  Most of the family was still there – and the young men who were going to help get the casket across the ravine to the main road to the funeral truck.  Blanca, Idalia, Cecilia, Margarita, an uncle were inside the room with the casket.  The young men were outside the door playing cards. 

By 6 a.m. it was time for some of us to leave.  Blanca, Margarita, Reina (the pregnant woman) and I took the tubs and a few other things back to the Pastoral House.   We also brought a half dozen young men and dropped them off at the cemetery because they needed to get started digging the hole.

I’ll save the rest of that for the next blog …

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