The Final Novena

Tonight, the nine novenas ended.
The rosary was said, as it normally is
With songs to the Virgin Mary
Between the Our fathers and Hail Marys.
I came in a few minutes after it started
Standing room only, but Victoria,
Waves me over to the only seat left,
In front of the cross which lies on the floor,
And is to be lifted tonight.
Elvia, her aunt Lucinda, Sofia and her baby Chucho
Are on our side. Children are moving around.
Jesus’ mother and father,
Sisters and brothers sit across from us.

I have learned a couple of things this week.
The children carrying roses to the altar
Between each set of prayers
Only happens in the month of May,
Which is the month of the Virgin Mary.
The children line up in front of the altar
They are given a flower
To hold up high over their head.
Upon a certain song, they carry the rose
To the altar, cross themselves, return to the line.
They wait through the next Our Father
The next ten Hail Mary’s
Another song,
Then perform this over again.
The younger children usually start it
The younger teenagers who are a little shy,
Join in around the third misterio.
By the end, they are quietly nudging each other.
The older ones are quietly scolding the younger
Who are antsy and wiggling around.
One little girl, about four years old
Is wearing tiny pink high heels
With big lace ruffled socks
Which makes Elvia laugh out loud.

After the rosary
The elevation of the cross ceremony begins.
Elvia and her five children,
Jesus’ five brothers and three sisters,
His mother and father,
Gather around the cal/lime cross (see this post for photo)
Which sits on the concrete patio floor.
The cross is decorated tonight.
Roses, mums and gladiola blooms rest on top of the cross.
There is a large circle of minature mums around it,
Mixed with red, cream and blush roses,
Ending with a string of roses at the bottom.
There is a small cross of miniature mums below that,
Along with five candles in the shape of a cross.

As specific songs are sung,
Elvia first kneels next to the cross,
Holding a tiny sheet metal dust pan
A two inch paint brush, and waits for Victoria
To take a red gladiola stem
And divide the cross into sections.
The first is for Elvia,
She sweeps it into the dust pan
Places that into a Christmas cookie tin
While Ana Karin, her daughter,
Weeps silently next to me.
She is looking upwards to the skylight
With a look not too dissimilar
Of the Virgin Dolorosa.

Next, Jesus’ father kneels, crosses himself
Gently sweeps the cross and flowers
Places them in the tin.
Jesus’ mother, who is not well
Sits in a chair, her hand covering her face,
She looks as though she could just give up
At any moment.
Beto’s turn is next,
He crosses himself, says a prayer,
Kisses his hand
Touches the ashes with the kiss.
The younger girls take their turns,
They are not so emotional
And Lupita, who is four, is grinning away
As she puts flowers in with the ashes.
Jesus’ brothers and sisters go next,
Followed by his mother,
Who is supported by her sons,
To place the tiny cross of flowers,
Which is left for last, in the tin.
All the while the singing continues,
There is quiet weeping throughout the room.
Although I have stopped crying,
It is so hot that I am sopping wet,
As are the women next to me and across.
I can’t tell where the tears end
And the heat begins,
Whether I am still crying
Or sweating tears from my whole body.

A la barella (sp?) is sung,
My favorite of all the songs.
Victoria and Beto singing loudly
Arms in the air, palms up,
As everyone takes their seat,
Elvia places the candles,
The tin that holds the cross and flowers
On the altar.
It will be taken to the church tomorrow night
For the final mass and blessing
Before going to the panteon,
To be spread on his grave.

Finally, one last song
Sube el cielo – Climb to the sky
As everyone is shepherded to the roof top
Singing sube el cielo
Which is meant to also help
The soul of Jesus, whose nickname is Kiro,
Rise to the heavens.
On the roof top,
Which represents heaven tonight,
The tables are set for 200 people
We are served pozole,
Each cup with a single arbol chile in it
Coca cola,
A meat dish with liver, and something
That looks like stomach lining,
Served with red Mexican rice,
Wrapped in pink and purple sweet tortillas.
I was told the name of the dish,
Which was surprisingly delicious,
Then promptly forgot  what it  is called.
The flavors reminded me of a kidney pie
That my mother made,
When I was a little girl.

Afterwards, people sit for a long time
Talking or staring into space
Tired and sad
Except for Kiro’s father
Who stands the entire time
Smiling and greeting everyone
Looking around the rooftop
Appearing to be very calm and satisfied
That he had done everything he could
For his son’s departure.