Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Reflection on 3 Funerals


Nine days…three funerals.

Yesterday we buried Nina Chana. She was 93 years old. She was a
Chalateca and a fighter that lived through two wars and knew a
poverty that we can’t even imagine. She gave herself and the lives of
her husband and children to the revolution. As she grew old she knew
darkness, solitude and heartache. Danny said, “I guess she was just
too tired and died.”

I always thought she resembled a mountain lion. She was strong, lean
and had steely blue eyes that seemingly could penetrate through
anything. She couldn’t see from those eyes, despite surgery by George
and treatment from Tom (they may remember her as the women the people
called “the Witch”).

Despite being blind she spent most of her days gathering wood in the
hills where she would carry her machete in one hand and large loads of
tied, cut trees on her head. She would navigate rocks, stumps,
streams, animals, buses and cars with a very long, thin wooden staff
cut from a tree branch.

She didn’t speak much. She just seemed to cry out most of the
time….”aghhhhhhhhhhhhhh, aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, and however it is
written, it sounded like it came from a very deep place, a very
painful place.

She never liked sleeping in a house and chose to live alone in a
small, open, “lean to” along the side of the road. She had nothing
there; just stacks of wood, a dog and a pot where she would cook
some kind of soup daily.

She had long ago lost flesh and muscle and was mostly bones ( a
walking skeleton). She had long legs and thin, white hair. Her skin
was dark and dry from years of sun and seemed to fit tightly around
her bones; like a sheet to a bed. As she walked her heart beat heavy.
Looking at her you could see both her chest and ribs rise and fall
with every breadth. She wore the same mended dress most days and it
was almost transparent from years of washings on rocks.

Yesterday I loved what Don Teecho said about her at the funeral mass,
“Chana was the revolution, in heart, body and soul. She worked on the
supply lines and was an expert at sneaking food and batteries past the
soldiers….more than anything else she always shared her food and

She suffered rejection by her own family. They always seemed to be
ashamed of her. Only one son came to the funeral and he stood off in a
distant corner during the mass, not wanting to be noticed by his own

She was also mistreated by the gangs. They would tie her up and knock
her to the ground. They would burn her few positions as she cried
out….not being able to see who was committing those atrocities against

Yesterdays mass was full of her friends. The great women of Guarjila,
mother’s, grandmothers, revolutionaries; sang, cried and walked with
their comrade for the last time.

Feliciana Menjivar (Nina Chana), a veteran of a “rough life” will no
longer suffer. I can only hope has she has found comfort, somewhere.

Then there is the case of Abel (the second of two Abel’s to die….just
days apart). He was 20 years old. On Wednesday he decided to put rat
poison in his beer and take his own life.

He was always a troubled kid. Never did well in school and dropped
out. He made an effort to be a Tamarindo early on, but too many rules
and structure drove him elsewhere. He then dedicated himself to
“Guarjila crime” stealing chickens and robbing houses (he became
particularly fond of robbing my house).

He then graduated to selling drugs; pot and crack mostly. He would
eventually go to San Salvador where he joined an organized gang and
became a “street dealer” for them.

A year ago he became involved with Maria a fifteen year old Tamarinda,
not long after, Carlos came, their first and only son. Abel seemed to
have found some peace when Carlos was born. He always wanted people
to see him as a dad.

Just before Christmas he disappeared. They say he went back to the
street. They also say that he stole money, (or didn’t pay off) the
“big guy”. He apparently couldn’t pay what he owed and in his
desperation he took that last drink.

Not many people came by to pay their last “respects”, not even his own family.

We helped bury him; Gio, Luis, Rosibel….we seem to have the routine down by now.

We pray for him and his tormented soul. We pray that he has found forgiveness.

And so begins a new generation of poverty. Maria and Carlos. Child with child.