I didn’t expect to be so moved.
Last week, while I was in El Salvador, a seventeen year old died in our village. While Rigoberto was fishing, he fell into the water and drowned.
Gloria, my neighbor and a leader in the church here, told me that he was her godson and that I would recognize him because he was one of the guys who played futbol (soccer) in the small field across from her house.
Tonight was the last night of the novenario, the nine nights of prayer in the house of the deceased – usually with the rosary and other prayers.
When I entered the crowded room, I went up to the altar and looked at the picture of Rigoberto in a soccer shirt.
I found tears coming to my eyes. I recognized him but really didn’t know him. I had seen him often but never really spent time talking with him.
RESOLUTION: Spend more time just standing around, talking with folks. And try to remember their names.
I asked where his parents were. His mother was in the kitchen. No surprise. Since she and other women had probably been spending most of the day making tamales for those who would come to be with the family for this last night.
I spent a little time with her and then went back to the main room. Gloria asked me to lead the first decade of the rosary.
After the rosary was over they were going to have a Celebration of the Word. I was tired (after a long day on my feet at the ordinations) and I also hadn’t eaten. So I left after the Rosary was finished.
I went to the kitchen and talked briefly to the grandmother and mother. The grandmother wanted to send a tamale home with me. I deferred, mentioning I don’t eat meat.
Then I went outside.
What is very interesting is that most of those inside were women. Most of the men were sitting or standing around outside.
I spoke with a few of them. I asked a small group of young men if they were friends. They were and one of them was a brother. I walked up to another group and spoke briefly with them.
I saw a young man who often played futbol in the field and probably knew Rigoberto well. I remarked how he had lost someone who had shared the soccer field with him.
I walked home, praying the Jesus prayer.
But I thought as I walked home that I wondered if I should have asked the young guys what was the best memory they had of Rigoberto, giving them an opportunity to share their feelings.
RESOLUTION 2: Spend time offering people, especially young men, a space to share that they are feeling and thinking.
When I got home, I wrote a brief note on Facebook. The sentence read:
I feel privileged to be a part of this community and to be allowed to accompany them.
It is a blessing to be allowed to share in people’s sorrows and joys. May I be worthy of their trust in me.