For those of you following the stories of our neighborhood, on July 2, our neighbor Petra’s husband Jose died. He would have turned 69 on July 4th, the day he was buried. His death was not unexpected, but in some ways a great relief to Petra who was his primary caregiver for over 10 years. He had a stroke when he was 59 and for about seven years could get around a little. The last three years he was bedridden and needed complete care.
About a month before his death, she told me he would die before three months was up and took me to see him. I had not seen him in about 2 months, when he deteriorated from being able to sit in a chair with help, to being more or less frozen in bed. I called hospice and took her to see them. She had no idea hospice existed and was elated to be able to have some help. The first step was an evaluation by a doctor who told them that they were very sorry but it appeared he had another 18 months – that the hard work would be hers, as he seemed comfortable.
I was astounded because it was clear that he was not eating, could not move and was not improving. When it got worse a couple of weeks later, she refused to call hospice for help because she was convinced they did not know what they were talking about and thought they did not really want to help her.
So, in her own stoic, straightforward way, she waited, watched and cared for him at home until he died shortly thereafter.
Being what I would call a very traditional, religious person, she set up the wake in her front living room at the street where the door remained open to the street for neighbors and friends to come by and pay their respects. The wake began the night he died, when his body was returned to the home and set up alongside an altar that the funeral home provides. Friends led rosaries all day Saturday, ending with a eerie and beautiful hour long chant at 5am Sunday morning after which food preparations began, followed by a mass at church and burial.
Go HERE to view the slideshow on our old blog.
As you know from the stories of the novenas for Maricela and Jesus last spring, the family hosts nine evenings of prayer, with a meal for everyone afterward. I won’t go into that here because you’ll find it on the links for Maricela and Jesus, but I want to say how impressive the effect of these novenas are. They are a combination of a prayer group, ritual, social event, fun night for kids, and done long enough for everyone to hear about the death and be able to pay their respects, as you can see by the increasing number of people who attend as the evenings go on.