Friday, June 4, 2010

A Salvadoran Funeral

This is something I never would have wished I would experience during my time in El Salvador. Unfortunately last Monday, May 31st, Eduardo lost his dear Grandpa. His name was Patricio Gabrielle Tepas, aka Papa Ticho and he was 93 years old.

I had the pleasure of getting to spend time with Papa Ticho on two separate occassions. The first was last year on my visit to ES with my mom and Liliana. We took grandma and grandpa with us to the beach and watching Papa Ticho in the water was like watching one of the kids. It was the highlight of my trip. Coming back this year, I got to have that experience again. We decided to go to the beach one day and asked the grandparents if they wanted to come with us. Grandma, aka Mama Chica, got so excited she had to sit down because she got dizzy! lol. We took them and they both got to experience the ocean and water again, which is a rare occasion for them.

Papa Ticho and Mama Chica are Eduardo's grandparents from his dad's side. Eduardo's father died when he was nine years old. His mom was so close to his dad's family that she continues to live with and around them to this day. The grandparents live in a room that connects my MIL's house to Eduardo's uncle's house next door. Although that is their son next door, my MIL has always been the one to look after them. That is the kind hearted soul that she is. She feeds them 3 meals a day and makes sure they have everything they need.

Last Monday my MIL, Ana, decided to take Liliana out for a walk because she was getting fussy. She walked out the door and headed up the street. What happened next continues to haunt me. Ana started screaming for Maynor. Maynor went running and I immediately got up from the computer. I knew something wasn't right. I started out the door and up the street as well. She then started screaming for Eduardo. I got closer and Liliana was standing on the ground by herself looking at the scene. I immediately picked her up and saw blood on the ground. Papa Ticho looked as though he had fallen and hit his head. There was blood on his head and Ana and now Eduardo were trying to sit him up. All the moments after are so clear, but everything happened so fast that it's almost a blur. There were people gathering around. I saw Eduardo and a neighbor doing CPR and trying to get Papa Ticho to regain consciousness. Ana was crying hysterically and Daniela had come to see what was going on. Maynor had gone back to the house and I later realized had been praying the whole time. Papa Ticho came to for a minute and a truck pulled up. Eduardo and I ran to the house to get money and anything he would need for the hospital. We ran back and he had already been lifted onto the truck to go to the local clinic. They left and we waited.

Daniela and I walked back into the house and she immediately sat down next to Maynor on the floor and they both proceeded to pray amongst the sobbing tears. I headed outside and Ana said she wanted to go to the clinic. I grabbed my purse and keys and headed out. Aunt Rosita came from across the street to stay with the kids. Ana and I left with Liliana. We got halfway to the clinic and saw the truck headed back. Eduardo motioned to us to go back and we instantly knew it wasn't good.

We got back to the house and the truck was parked out front. Things are done very differently here when someone dies. Papa Ticho was brought back from the clinic in the truck and there he was, lying like he was asleep. It was almost too much for me to handle. I had never seen anyone die before. I couldn't believe what was happening. I guess he didn't even make it to the clinic. The doctor examined him and said there was nothing that could be done. Apparantly he had a heart attack and that caused him to fall and hit his head and go unconscious.

As we all stood there not believing what was happening, all I could think about was Mama Chica. Why wasn't anyone telling her?! They brought her to the front of the house from the back and showed her her husband. It was so awful. She didn't even react at first, looking as if she thought he was sleeping. Then she realized what had happened and Eduardo explained to her that he was gone.

Within minutes it seemed like a casket was brought to the house and his Uncle's next door was being cleared out to make way for the casket and ceremony. He was put into the casket and put in the house. Ana was frantically calling her family and everyone was showing up or on their way. When someone dies here, they don't preserve the body in any way so it all happens very quickly.

Candles were lit everywhere and flowers were being brought. Coffee and bread were being made and bought and being served to every guest. This continued through the night. On the first night everyone stays up the entire night praying and talking and carrying on. I finally had to put Liliana to bed and myself. I didn't sleep well that night. Eduardo came to bed around 4am and didn't get much sleep either.

The next day preparations were being made for the funeral. I tried to call my mom but she was in Oregan in the mountains with my brother completely unreachable. Eduardo was doing everything everywhere and although there were a thousand people all around, I felt completely and utterly alone. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

The mass at the Church was scheduled for 3pm. At 2:30 everyone would walk alongside the casket up to the church from the house. Luckily before this, I was able to talk to my mom. I told her the story and cried and cried and was able to let it all out. Up until then I hadn't been able to talk to anybody. It was a huge relief. We then set out for the church. I started to walk for a little bit with Liliana while Eduardo took some of the elderly people in the car. Liliana got scared and fussy, so we jumped in the car with them. Thank goodness, it was a long walk! Eduardo thoroughly enjoyed the church service, but I had to excuse myself and go outside with Liliana and play because she wouldn't sit still. After the service everyone walked to the cemetary where Papa Ticho was buried. He was buried alongside Eduardo's dad and his dad and mom I believe. Watching the men all lift him down into the grave was really hard. It was then I really knew I would never see him again. It must have been hard for Ana as well being at the cemetary. Also beside them were the two babies she had lost at two different times in her life. She is such a strong woman to have witnessed so much death and be so kindhearted. I have a lot of respect for her.

Because they are Catholic, they continue to pray for a long time. A vigil is held every day for 9 days in the afternoon next door at Uncle's house. People come and we make coffee and bread is served. On the forth day, today, something more special is given to the people that have been coming to pray. On the ninth day, everyone gathers again and stays up all night praying and have a celebration. Then again on day 40 there is another celebration. I think it's actually a very nice way to honor those that have passed.

Mama Chica is in my thoughts and heart all the time. I've never really known someone to die, let alone live with the surving one. It's been very emotional watching her go through the grieving process. We all try to stay strong for her. Sometimes I can't help it and come to my room and cry. She was really good the first 2 days, but on the 3rd said that the loneliness and emptiness had set in. That broke my heart. Ana and the kids moved their beds into a room with Mama Chica because she doesn't want to be alone. Imagine being married to someone for over 70 years and then waking up one day and they are gone?! Heartbreaking. We later found out that the grandparents had been having their afternoon snack of hot milk and bananas and grandma had sent grandpa outside to watch for a parade type thing that was supposed to be coming. He was going to go back in and get her when it got close. She never saw him again.

I know this is long, but they are memories I want to keep and remember. I especially want to remember my times with Papa Ticho and how he is the cutest old guy I have ever met. He had the cutest voice that I never could understand and he would talk anyway even though I don't speak Spanish. He didn't care. And his laugh...let me tell you. His laugh was the best. It was the cutest little giggle. I remember telling Eduardo on several occassions that I just need to see Papa Ticho every day and it will make my stay here so much better. I wish Eduardo would have told him.

1 comment:

Dani Early said...

Ah, I have tears in my eyes. Fernando and I were looking at your pics from your trip last year and we loved the pic of him sitting in the water at the beach. That picture is truly priceless. I am so sorry that you have lost such a special person but am so glad that you got the pleasure of knowing him.