Jose Refugio

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.

Under the casket, a cross made of cal/lime is placed, representing the body. After the casket is removed, the cross, candles, bowl of onions (for spirits) and flowers remain for the 9 novenas. On the last novena, the family divides the cross by the number of people in the family, who take turns placing their part in the container which is taken to the cemetery.
Under the casket, a cross made of cal/lime is placed, representing the body. After the casket is removed, the cross, candles, bowl of onions (for spirits) and flowers remain for the 9 novenas. On the last novena, the family divides the cross by the number of people in the family, who take turns placing their part in the container which is taken to the cemetery.

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.



3 thoughts on “Jose Refugio”

  • The closeness of the community that is felt during the novena reminds me of the closeness felt by the early Christians in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s “Quo Vadis?” May you rest in peace, José. You are blessed to have such a loving circle of family, neighbors, and friends.

  • There’s a quote by James Hillman in Talking on the Water which says: “Tribal people spend an immense amount of time making sure the feeling is right, either by sweats, rituals, dances or feasts. There are anthropological studies that say tribal people spend about 30% of their time doing what we would call working and the rest of the time preparing and performing rituals, dances and ceremonies. Why do they do that? The do that so their feeling is in right relation with the world they’re in”

    Although we are not talking about tribal people here, there are parallels to this quote throughout the culture – deep faith, rituals and celebrations, dances, public displays, not working too much, making time for family and keeping in touch with what’s real and feels right – communities of people gathering together around what is important.

Leave a Reply to livinginsanmiguel Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *