BECAUSE LOVE IS LOVE

My Favorite

And have you ever felt for anything
such wild love-
Do you think there is anywhere,
in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure that fills you?
maryoliver

Writing does not come easy to me. If I don’t sit down immediately and write the thoughts that come to my mind, the moment will be lost, the inspiration forgotten.

Except for moments like these, when the pain in your heart is so big that your tears become words that need to be said.

2015 has been a year of loss for me, in May, I lost Joey, a Pug I had for almost 10 years. Losing Joey was hard but he had been ill for a long time and needed to rest. Five months later, on October 5th I lost Nina, it was just 22 days from the first symptom to the day she died on the operating table. Losing Joey and Nina so close together was difficult, but I was prepared, I was there with them and had times to say my good byes. After Nina died, I looked at Red, my old boy who is around 13 years old and told him he was not allowed to die this year. Because I figured he was next; because I am human and as a human I have it all planned the way it should be, so I started mentally preparing to say my good byes to Red.

I accept the inevitability of death. The idea that everything and everyone has a beginning and an end. It is a hard concept to grasp but one that makes more sense the older you get. I mean, if life did not have an end, it would not be so precious, imagine a world where everyone would go on living forever, no, that would not be good. So I am okay with beginnings and ends and making the best of the time we have. But I want my deaths organized, I want them predictable, wrapped in a nice package, I want time to prepare for things to come.

That nicely organized world changed on October 20th around 11:00 am when a terrible accident took the life of Valentino, it took it in seconds, without forewarning, without a good bye, without a kiss, a hug, without a glance. One second he was sunning himself on the front porch, the next my husband was carrying his lifeless body to me. His cries before he died and my husband’s screams will be forever embedded in my mind for as long as I live. Nothing, nothing, nothing in the world prepares you for a death like that, it is brutal, it rips your heart out, it shatters every preconceived notion, it takes your well organized world and turns it upside down. And you know, without a doubt, that you will never be the same again, you will carry on living, and you will laugh again and love again, but you will never, ever, never be the same again.

So you fall to your knees and you scream, and your screams seem to be coming from someone else because surely you cannot be making those noises, and you tell him to open his eyes, and you look at his chest and swear he is breathing, and the world is spinning, and your hands and arms are detached from your body, and you know this is a nightmare and you will wake up anytime now, because, well because he was not supposed to die, he was supposed to ride with you in an airplane and go to the United States , because you promised him he would one day go to a dog park, because you saved him and he walked again, but most of all, this was not supposed to happen because you made him a promise on May of 2013, you promised him he would never suffer again and you would protect him forever.

But today you broke that promise, you failed to protect , you went inside and left him alone for a minute and the unimaginable happened.

There is a special bond that forms when you are the caretaker of a special needs animal, it happened with Oscar when he became diabetic and blind and it happened with Valentino. There is a greater need to protect. I rescued Valentino in May of 2013. He was 6 years old and he had never experienced love in his life. He was used for the sole purpose of breeding and this was done with him lacking the use of his rear legs. I will not go into great details about his former life because his scum of an owner does not deserve any space in this love story, all I will say is that he suffered some type of injury to his spinal cord when he was about one year old which was never treated and he was left to drag his rear legs for five years. On top of that, his lower body had atrophied, he was emaciated and full of fleas. He came to me without a bed, a plate, a toy. I took a look at him and fell head over heels, hopelessly and unconditionally in love.

That love was not reciprocated right away, he did not like to be touched, or cuddled, or kissed. He did not know how to sleep on a bed or be part of a family. He was utterly lost and confused.

A wheelchair was made and he started to walk again and slowly gain muscle tone, the rib cage started to fill in, therapies were started, first apitherapy, then acupuncture, hydrotherapy and finally electrical stimulation to the muscles. Every milestone was celebrated, every step cheered, when he lifted his leg for the first time, when he pooped without falling. When he stood on his hind legs and asked me to carry him, i cried.

But the most important therapy was the therapy of love, he was starved for that, and once he started to open up to it, he absorbed it like a sponge, and the awesome, loving, funny, smart, curious dog that was trapped inside of him blossomed right in front of our eyes. What joy it was to see him come to me and ask me to lift him up. We invented a game we called “choo-choo” where he would carry a toy in his mouth and we would follow him clapping our hands, at the beginning it was to help him walk, but very soon it turned into his trademark. Those of you who had the good luck of meeting him know that no one could come into my house without playing choo-choo, the basket with his stuffed toys was by the door and he would greet everyone with one in his mouth demanding they play, we woke up and went to sleep to this. What an honor and privilege it was to be the recipient of the affection of this extraordinary being.

I love him with every single fiber of my soul, he was my moon and my stars, my sun and the wind that caresses my skin. True love is like that, it doesn’t differientate between age, gender or species. When two connected souls meet, they recognize each other right away, hearts don’t understand rules that say you cannot love a non-human being as much as you love a human being. Because LOVE IS LOVE. Those of you who have experienced this kind of love know exactly what I am talking about, those who don’t and think it is not normal to love a dog like that, you obviously don’t belong in this blog. As you close the door on your way out, please don’t forget to click the “unfriend” button.

And now I am holding his lifeless body and I kiss that precious face over and over, and I smell that Valentino smell so unique to him, and both of our bodies are wet with my tears, and I am being told it is time to bury him, and I don’t want to, and I am being told that I have to compose myself, that I have other dogs to think about, that Valentino would not like to see me that way, that my family needs me. So I do what I am told, and I place him on his bed and carry him to the grave and watch as he is placed inside of it, and we take all his choo-choos except one and lay them on top of him and then the dirt is covering him and the sky begins to cry, but I don’t cry, even as I watch my strong husband crumble, I don’t cry, because this is not real, I am not here, this body belongs to someone else who is watching her dog being buried, i will wake up tomorrow morning with Valentino by my side.

Grief is not pretty. When we think of ourselves as grieving, we imagine ourselves as one of those long suffering heroines languidly dying from unrequited love. But no, real grief is not pretty. Real grief is all about tears that don’t stop, its about kneeling by the toilet and throwing up for hours, face and eyes so swollen you cannot see, sinuses so clogged you cannot breathe, jaws so clenched all your teeth hurt, snot running down your face. Its about not bathing for 3 days, its about not caring if you eat, its getting on your knees and trying to negotiate with a God you are not even sure exists. That is real grief.

Some people think grief has a timeline but the truth is everyone grieves differently. For me, it became worse when the tears stopped. Because you look “normal”, people think you have healed and have started to move on. I emerged from those first day as someone who has just gone through a lengthy illness, I was weak, shaky, hungry. I cried at unexpected moments, I looked for him everywhere, on the clouds, on the earth, the rain, the trees, the flowers. I begged for signals, I talked to him. On the first day that i went out I did what every grieving female has done since the beginning of times, I cut my hair. I don’t know why, maybe I needed a new me on the outside to match the new me on the inside. When I stopped crying I thought I had started to heal but despair is a tricky enemy, it hides itself in a dark corner and jumps at you when you least expect it.

So, I started to write and through that the healing has hopefully started.

Humans like explanations, they don’t like the unknown. I am no different. I have looked for answers as to why this happened. A punishing God? A lesson to be learned? An angel needed in Heaven? I have even thought back to last year when him and Nina got bitten by the snake. Were they supposed to die together? Did I interfere with a higher order by saving them? Is that why he died 15 days after Nina? I like my friend’s explanation, she thinks everyone has a purpose in life and once that purpose is fulfilled there is no need for you to stay anymore. What was Valentino’s purpose? Was it to make me a better person? More compassionate and caring? If that was so, then he certainly succeeded in his mission.

But as much as I would like to think there was a greater purpose to his dying, the truth is probably that it was just a terrible accident, one that was caused by human error and resulted in his untimely death.

He came to me between 2:55 and 3:05 AM three nights in a row, I woke up automatically and didn’t know why. Then I learned the significance of that hour and built him an altar with all his things. And he did not come again until last night when I was having a particularly bad night, and when I opened my eyes at 2:59 AM, he was there with me. It comforts me, to know that he is still with me just in a different form. I am not a religious person, and the jury is still out on the entity we call “God”, but I do believe there is a soul and that there are other dimensions most of all cannot see but some can sense. I don’t know where Tino is but i would like to think he is in a place of beauty, where he is not suffering. It is my hope that he is with other animals in that beautiful place we call “The Rainbow Bridge” and I would also like to think that through our love we will find each other again.

My days with him started with a cup of coffee and a walk through the property. That was the happiest time of the day for me, I would look at all my plants and he would pee on all of them. He would try to run away from me and I would call him, we would comeback from our walk happy and hungry and ready for a game of choo-choo.

Since his death I have had to reinvent a new routine, it is just too painful to do alone what we did together. I miss him, I miss him with every fiber of my being, my mornings are empty, I wonder aimlessly from place to place trying to find a purpose and a reason to be. The other dogs are there but that connection is missing. Yesterday i placed a bench in front of his grave and I placed flowers between his grave and Nina’s and I have sat there two days in a row. Maybe I will drink my coffee there tomorrow. Baby steps.

Dogs have many lessons to teach, and just like humans, some are more evolved than others. Valentino and I did not need the spoken language to communicate. When we looked into each other’s eyes we understood each other through the language of love. He taught me many things, to live in the moment, to be happy despite  obstacles in the way, to love unconditionally, and most importantly, he taught me that a good game of choo-choo would solve just about any problem. For all those teachings, I say THANK YOU my love, I will try to always honor you by being as good and kind of a person as you thought I was. May we meet on a cloud again someday . Until then, I will miss you everyday of my life.

Posted in animals, costa rica, death, Dogs, grief, love | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beauty REALLY IS in the eyes of the beholder

If you would ask me what the biggest advantage of getting older is, I will tell you that for me is finding my own style and not caring about what the Joneses like.

Take my garden. At one time in my life, my idea of a beautiful garden was a manicured lawn, well trimmed bushes and trees, symmetrical hedges and carefully picked complimentary plants. I still enjoy looking at these kind of gardens in other people’s properties, but for me, a garden that makes sense is the one that mostly consists of edible and medicinal plants.

There is something luscious and sensual about organic vegetables grown by your own hands and effort. The beauty of a garden full of kale, lettuce, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes is intoxicating. I find myself full with a sense of wonderment and happiness when I see my little sprouts emerge from the soil and realize I have everything I need to nurture my body and soul. The fact that I can buy them for less money and certainly through less effort at the Feria does not diminish my enthusiasm hin the very least.

My son told me the other day that I’m beginning to look like a tree hugger, a statement which meant for me that my connection with the earth is beginning to reflect in my physical appearance. I have always been a “hippie” at heart, always somewhat a Bohemian, probably influenced by a father who wore shoes only for special occasions and then under protest and who died with his long white hair in a ponytail and a white beard so long he was chosen to play Santa Claus. My father was far from perfect but as I grow older I appreciate more and more his unconventional ways, the joy of walking barefoot or getting my hands dirty when planting my garden.

For a while I played the “conforming” game, I had the big house, three cars, the high stressed, high paying job, the “good dishes” , a closet full of clothes, a mortgage, credit cards, anything to “fit in” even if it meant to deviate from who I really was at my core. But as of a few years ago, I began to notice a shift in me, it started subtly, I stopped dying my hair, I started exploring other religions outside of what I had been taught, mainly Buddhism which had always intrigued me, I became more aware of what I ate, I had always been a strong animal advocate and felt like a hypocrite eating them, I started gradually with cutting beef out of my diet. When I moved to Costa Rica and heard a pig scream in agony while being killed it was easy to add that to the list of foods I would not eat, followed by chicken once I learned of the conditions they endure before being killed and smelling the chicken farms when driving by them. I could talk all day about what we do to the earth and other sentient beings but this writing is not about preaching or converting anyone to my way of thinking, I think everyone is where they need to be and changes will come when the time is right. This writing is about how aging has helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and given me the freedom to do what feels good.

Take possessions, I moved here with 11 suitcases carrying a ridiculous amount of unnecessary items. I remember my daughter, who is wise enough to have never fallen into the consumerism trap, looking in amazement at high heel shoes, leather purses, jewelry, and suitcase after suitcase of clothing (this is after giving away or selling more than half of my possessions before coming here, so in my mind I had already thinned out my possessions) . Within the first two months I gave away perhaps a third of what I brought, within a year that figure probably went up to half, and now, after almost three years here I probably have maybe 25 percent of what I originally brought and IT FEELS GOOD, not only does it feel good to share my material wealth with people who need it more but it has LIBERATED me to do more of the things that bring me joy. Less stuff means less cleaning, less clutter, less organizing, more time to read, to play with my dogs, to look at a beautiful sunset, to find my spirituality, to learn more about this journey we call life, to prepare for the next journey. Less stuff means more time to walk barefoot in the dirt. I bet my Dad would be proud.

IMG_0527.JPG

Posted in consumerism, Contentment, costa rica, Happiness, vegetarian | Leave a comment

No Soy De Aquí Ni Soy De Alla

(A very famous Julio Iglesias song,”I am not from here or from there”)

We, humans, are very complex beings. We spend our lives chasing dreams and waiting for the right moment to be happy. And then we suddenly reach an age where we realize that we don’t have that much time left, that we better grab the present moment, no matter how imperfect ,and run with it, enjoy it, embrace it, smell it, feel it, live it.

Several friends have been asking me to write a sequel to my post from last year “We are what we Know”. They want to know how I feel after my last trip to the States , I think hoping to hear that the minute I got off the plane in Miami I wanted to come running back to Costa Rica, that I had finally integrated so much to life here where I feel this is “home”.

Instead, the minute I got in my rental car and on to a monstrous 10 lane highway, it was as if I had never left, as if the last two years had suddenly been erased. The only thing that was difficult for a few minutes was to figure out all the digital controls in my 2014 car…hahahaha….I OWNED that road and Miami.

The days that i spent with my family and friends were days filled with laughter and fun, knowing I would have to leave soon made it more important to savor every second with them. In the last couple of days, I noticed my mind switched, I started thinking more and more about Costa Rica, I grew impatient waiting to comeback. I would envision myself sitting at my screen porch as I am now listening to the birds sing, being among my “things” , those things that make a house become a home.

For a few days after I came back my mind would take me to Miami, to my family, my friends back there, the food, the restaurant, the shops, a car that actually had power windows…lol. But then I settled back into my life, and, yes, it was hard seeing the pictures of my family together at Easter, not being there filled me with sadness, but that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? A balance of good and bad, a constant yin-yang.

I let myself settle back into my life here before I wrote this. Gave myself the chance to really be able to answer the question “do you now feel like this is home?” with certainty.

I know now that I have two homes. The home where I grew up, where my family is, the one that holds the memory of school, where my children were born, the one of the thrift shops and the constant heat and humidity, where I met my husband and fell in love forever, the one of good food and good music. And my other home, the one with the views that take your breath away, where the air is so crisp that it makes you want to sing , the one of monkeys and snakes, of rivers and waterfalls, of gallo pinto and fresh fruit, of new friends that will last a lifetime. How did I get so lucky?

I am content. I don’t have to choose. I can now be whole. Part of me doesn’t have to be here or there. I can be both places at all times. Unlike the song I can now say “soy de aqui y soy de alla”

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Of Mice and Men………and Dogs

I’m no Steinbeck as you all well know after reading my posts. I’m sure I have caused a many English teachers countless sleepless nights after reading my writings. I’m often asked ” do you dream in English or Spanish?” And the truth is , I dream, think and talk “Spanglish” , that wonderful language where half of your words come out in English and the other in Spanish or simply you mix both languages to create a word of your own invention. And….I’m sorry to say, since I moved to a Spanish speaking country just at that moment in my life when my brain has suddenly decided to become a geriatric brain , my ramblings are not likely to become any better or more grammatically correct. My heart really aches when i think of all the toss and turning Shakespeare and Cervantes must be doing because of me.

But…..I digress……as you all know, I’m a big animal lover, my friends love the story of how I tried to save the scorpion that bit me BEFORE I woke up Norman to tell him that half my face was paralyzed, I take spiders the size of my hand and calmly explain to them as I guide them off my property to not comeback or next time it might be the other inhabitants of my house who they meet at the back porch, and I would most likely be hospitable to a 6 foot Terciopelo and her family but……GULP…..I will say it now……I HATE MICE…..not your nice little, cute, pet shop variety of mice, but the large, black, 10 foot tail mouse…….I would much rather face a hungry lion than a mouse in my laundry room, which is exactly what happened that fateful day a few weeks ago.

Until that day, my method of catching and disposing of these wonderful God’s creatures was to set a trap so humane that it is the equivalent of a 4 star hotel, a large enclosure with cheese and other appetizing delicacies where the only thing missing is a comfortable foam mattress. My rodent friends would spend the night nibbling on cheese waiting for the dawn, when my husband would dutifully walk a few feet to the jungle behind my house and release the wretched creatures who would turn around and make it back to the house before my husband did and proceed to tell all their friend about this most amazing place where you could sleep comfortably while gorging yourself on fresh cheese before being taken for a stroll in the woods. It was not unusual to find my Tico friends holding their belly rolling on the floor while they saw Norman’s method of disposing of the mice, after all, they come from household where at the tender age of 3 you are taught to use a “cuchillo” to take care of uninvited house guests.

But going back to that day, I was happily going about doing household chores, when, I notice one of my dogs laying at the entrance of the kitchen intently staring at an inert black object on the floor a few inches away from her. As I cautiously inch my way forward I realize in total horror that it is a dead mouse whose violent death was undoubtedly caused by my dog. Now, you might think I embraced this wonderful opportunity life was giving me to finally “man up” and immerse myself totally in the local culture by just casually picking the rodent by the tail and dumping it in the garbage ,but you could not be more wrong. I, of the bra-burning era, ran as fast as my legs could take me away from the mouse, through the garage door and outside the house where I planned to grab the first male I saw (sorry Gloria and Angela (my friends who grew up in the 60’s know exactly who I’m talking about))age unimportant,only requirement was a healthy amount of testosterone.

Which is when my unfortunate friend Paul happened to drive by. Now, you must remember this was early in the morning before I had the time to put on my “outside” appearance,so it is a testimony to my friend’s upbringing that he did not accelerate away from the crazed woman running outside screaming while sporting a good dose of bed hair. As I rambled about the mouse and the dog, he maintained a smile on his face while I could see his brain trying to figure out whether a)he could restrain me himself if necessary or b) how soon he should call the men in the white coats.

To my relief, my friend agreed to come in and dispose of the unwanted body on my kitchen floor so in we came through the garage into the house and as we turned into the kitchen, there was……..nothing on the floor except my killer dog laying placidly sleeping. I feverishly starting searching the house for the dead mouse, assuring Paul that the mouse had not been a figment of my imagination and to his credit he managed to keep his equanimity as he calculated out how fast he could get out of my house.

With him gone, my attention turned to my dog Nina. Now, this is my crazy dog and everyone who knows her agrees she is missing a few screws. When I first saw her she was PLAYING on the shoulder of I95 in Miami, a 10 lane expressway,unaware of the thousands of cars speeding right by her. Now, 10 years later she still has not figured out that the black snake teasing her is her tail. So, with the mouse having disappeared there was only one explanation, SHE HAD SWALLOWED THE WHOLE MOUSE HEAD AND ALL, and as I looked at her in horror I was already planning on how I was never, ever again getting anywhere near her mouth.
Nina

As the hours passed and there was no sign of the mouse, I started to relax even as I mentally planned how I could place a restraining order on Nina so she could never come within 10 feet of me. I was happily cooking in mid afternoon that same day when I happened to glance towards the almost never used front room and notice an unusual object laying on one of the sofas…..as I inched very cautiously towards the sofa my horrified brain understood that the object in mention was….yes, you guessed it, the missing mouse. Needless to say, my husband had never and will probably never be greeted so ebulliently when he came home later that day.
The Unfortunate Victim

Time has passed, Nina is allowed near me, the mouse is still dead, and, I am happy to report there is a rumor that my friend might stop taking the long way into town and might start driving past my house again………….

Posted in animals, Contentment, costa rica, Dogs | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

We are what we know

It has been one year since I moved to “paradise”. For a long time before we came to Costa Rica, it was pretty much all my husband and I could talk about.
In the States I complained about the traffic, the long commute to work and back, cost of living was too high, I wasn’t home enough, my husband was growing old without me by his side, insurance was high, crime rate was terrible, utilities too expensive, it was too hot, too humid, I did not spend enough time with my dogs, and on and on and on…..
We took apart our lives, sold some things, gave away others, sold our house, I quit my job, my husband quit a human rights organization he had been a part of for many years, together we left behind 7 children, 10 grandchildren, 1 great grandchild, beloved family and friends and a lifetime of memories.
I now grow my own organic vegetables, take yoga classes, cook healthy meals, pursue hobbies, spend time with my husband, with my dogs, have started a rescue group, have made new friends, I hike, I watch sunsets, go to the river, drive through the mountains, look at amazing views, take my dogs to the park, read, write and live a privileged,amazing life. Would I leave this life behind to go back “home”…..you bet I would, in a heartbeat.

There is a picture in my house that I look at often. This picture was taken two years ago when I went on a trip to Disney World with my aunt and two dear friends and it represents one of the happiest memories I have. When I look at it I find myself wishing I could take that trip again and re-experience all the happiness it brought. But, could I really do that? Definitely not. Even if I replicated all the conditions of that trip, it would never be the same. A moment, a phrase, a smile, a gaze, a word, is unique in the present mode only and once that moment passes it belongs to the past and the past is a place that should not be revisited too often, doing that prevents a person from being grounded in the present.

So, why would I go back to my old life when I have a life that is the envy of many? There are some true and valid answers to that, I miss my granddaughter, it makes me very sad not to be there as she grows up, I miss my aunt, she was my “partner in crime” for many years, I miss the rest of my family and all my good friends; but there is also another answer, I would go back because it is WHAT I KNOW, because good or bad it was my life for 45 years. This is nice, this is beautiful, I get to do what I have always wanted to, but it still does not feel like my real life, it still feels like an extended vacation. In other words, my resistance to adapt comes from living in the past, something which only causes me pain and sadness.

I believe that being happy is a choice that we make. Turning negative thoughts into positive ones requires a conscious effort. Therefore, I will make a resolution to be happy starting today: I will never forget my past but I will start living in the present. I will treasure my good memories and be thankful for them. I will count my blessings. I will breathe this cool mountain air and delight in the sunsets. I will cherish every moment I get to spend with my loved ones no matter how short those moments might be. I will be grateful that technology allows me to talk to my family and friends and even see them as if I was there. I will enjoy this opportunity to be with my husband and enjoy his golden years. I will pursue lifelong dreams. I will make this new life my own. From now on THIS WILL BE WHAT I KNOW!

Posted in Contentment, costa rica, Habits, Happiness | 4 Comments

The Dark Side of Paradise

Oh, the horror I have seen……….
There is a young dog , really a big puppy living in the dark, chained to the wall night and day, day in and day out, in solitary confinement, with no human or canine contact, slowly losing his mind. Paradise is all around him, mountains and open green spaces but he doesn’t see any of that. His owner keeps him chained, inside an abandoned workshop, there are piles of excrement around him, you can see he is trying to pull his chain as far as it will go in order not to soil his space. He is fed once a day but that is all, not a kind word, not a caress, not a walk, not a run, not a bone, nothing, just darkness eroding his young mind. I asked the owner, “why?”, and he said “because he kills the chickens if I let him lose” it’s just that simple to him.
He jumped on me when I went in there, he desperately pulled on his chain in order to wrap his front legs around my torso, he almost came up to my shoulders, his eyes met mine and I saw my horror reflected in his desperation.
I have not been able to sleep since.

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He ain’t heavy, he’s my neighbor

As an adult I always wanted to belong to a “community”. I left Cuba for the United States at 13,old enough to remember what it was like to walk everywhere, to know all your neighbors, to sit at the park with the street dogs running around, to buy freshly baked bread at the corner store, to sit at your front porch at night and wave to the people walking by. In Miami I lived in the suburbs and although there was always a friendly relationship with the neighbors it was never the same again, that is, until I arrived at Costa Rica.

My neighbor’s elderly mother died 10 days ago, the wake took place at home, the family including the children washed the body and prepared it for viewing. Minutes after the death, the neighbors started arriving to pay their respect, the cooking was started, tables were set, chairs were arranged, the casket was laid out in the middle of the living room, the deceased looked beautiful with her hair braided and adorned with flowers. There were tears, there were laughs, grandchildren alternated between going to see their grandmother and playing with their friends as only children can do, as it should be……

The burial took place the next day, after a mass. Throes of people walked to the cemetery behind the hearse on a day so beautiful it defied the concept of death. Thru the town they went, dozens of people paying their respect, the young and the old, the real grievers and the mere curious.

I thought that was the end of it until the next day when i again saw the entire neighborhood arrive at their house just before sunset and shortly after heard the prayers and it was then when I found out this would repeat for 9 days in a ritual called “la novena” which culminates with a mass on the ninth day. At prayer time, I would sit in my back porch and would let myself be carried up to Heaven in a cloud of faithful energy and once there I would hear God say, okay, okay, I will take good care of your dead, how could I not with so many voices asking me as one…….

I know there are people who will say that some neighbors came for the food, or to gossip, or out of an obligation and they are probably right, but to me, who spent the last 45 years of my life attending hushed hushed wakes, in an antiseptic funeral home and attending burials where the bereaved ride inside a dark limousine, this ritual felt right, finally in the sunset of my life I again experience what I did in the onset, the joy of belonging to a community……..Pura Vida!!!!!!!!

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