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!!!!!!!!