Maria Estela Rodriguez -- Que en paz descance

Yesterday, October 6, 2008 at 3:45 PM, my dear mother, Maria Estela Rodriguez, peacefully passed over surrounded by her loving family at Kaiser Hospital in Anaheim, CA. That morning doctors removed her respirator after putting her asleep and we all took turns saying our last words and prayers, or just holding her hand, until her final breath. In indigenous traditions, spirits go back to the collective spirits of all who have passed, the Ancestors, to be called on in this world for guidance, support, and spiritual access. She is now part of this "congress," which heals when we heal, and is instrumental in our own healing, and who we can turn to for the natural legislation we need to bring healing to others

My mother was 85.

Maria Estela was of Raramuri descent (also known in Mexico as La Tarahumara), born in southern Chihuahua where the Raramuri have their homeland. She was the daughter of Monico and Ana Jimenez. She was the last of her siblings to pass--which included her brothers Francisco (Kiko) and Rodolfo, and a sister, Chila. She also had a few half-siblings, including Marcelo and Gloria, among others. And she left four children--my brother Jose (Joe), my sisters Ana and Gloria, and myself. On top of this she had twelve grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.

She was also very much loved by half siblings from my father, in particular my half-sister Seni Rodriguez, her daughters Ana Seni, Aide, and Rebecca, and their husbands and children.

About twenty of us were there most of the day with my mother. With me was my wife Trini and my daughter Andrea. My son Ramiro was trying to call us from prison in Illinois, but the call didn't get through. Still his thoughts were with us. My other sons said their goodbyes over the weekend--in their own way since only Ruben went to see her and Luis felt he wanted to make his goodbyes by himself (he told me he did not want to see grandma this way, and I accepted that--my grand-daughter Catalina did the same thing).

I also received many good wishes and condolences from my many friends. I have to say how significant they were for me in this time of loss. Thank you all! This is also a time of great hurting for all of us as many shared their own losses or impending losses of parents due to disease or Alzheimer's.

And we also have to recognize the losses due to the economic turmoil that is taking many of us down.

At one point, as we sat in the waiting room while doctors prepared my mother, we heard the news about the six people killed in Porter Ranch, CA (a well-off community not far from my house) over the weekend in a murder-suicide that we now know was linked to the financial crisis.

My own sister, Ana, who took care of my mother for 16 years after my father died, was laid off last week. Others in the family are facing mortgage problems and job loss. My brother Joe was set to retire this year after 35 years in the phone company, but has to keep working because the pension and other savings won't allow him to pay his bills.

My mother was also a hard-working immigrant woman (she worked on and off in the garment industry) who struggled through a lifetime of hard times. She practically raised us by herself due to my father's long-time detachment and, finally, dementia and other sickness in the last years of his life. While all of us have tales of my mother's frustration, cruelty at times, and out-of-nowhere anger, she was also a person who would give you food and comfort if you needed it.

I returned to Los Angeles eight years ago from Chicago after I learned my mother contracted Lymphoma. I did not want her to leave this world without us reconciling. I didn't do this for my father, but I felt my mother deserved this. For I recalled too many times when she was a loving mother. Yes, we had many issues between us (for some 20 years, we hardly talked). But in the end, I didn't want any more issues, pains, recriminations, or political/spiritual differences to separate us.

I know she was heartened to see my return. For the first time in 30 years, I had a holiday dinner with all the family soon after that. Often I'd visit my mother, sit next to her on the couch in front of the TV, and just hold her hand. Nothing much to say. But her eyes and her willingness to let me be her son again said it all.

Once, after Trini and I helped create Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural & Bookstore, my mother came to see the place--it was the only time she did. As soon as she walked in she started to cry. I didn't know why, so I asked her, "Mama, I didn't make this place so you could feel bad. Why are you crying?" She looked at me and said in Spanish (she didn't speak English despite more than 50 years in the US), "Mijo, I think, finally, you're going to be okay."

This was an important recognition. As a former gang member/drug addict, then revolutionary activist, thinker and writer, she felt I was a lost cause for many, many years. For once she acknowledged I had done some good in this world--and to live long enough to have your mother say this, which doesn't always happen, helped complete an important circle for me.

Over the past eight years, my mother beat the Lymphoma. She survived breaking a number of bones in two major falls. She also overcame a fall one morning in her garden that, unable to get up or yell for help, ended up with burns on her arms, legs and face by the hot sun until my sister came home to find her. But then she got Alzheimer's, and my sister, who couldn't take care of her anymore, asked a consensus about placing her in a home for Alzheimer's patients. It was a hard decision to make, but last year we placed her in one, and it turned out to be the right thing. Finally, a little more than two weeks ago, my mother had to have her gall bladder removed. But her age and condition was going to make this a dangerous operation--she had a 20 percent chance of survival. But, again, we decided to move forward--for her to live with the pain would have been torturous. She lasted two weeks, but with contracting pneumonia and with a irregular heartbeat, she was not going to make it. The final decision we had to make was to let her go. Again, an extremely difficult thing. But, as in many of these cases, the right thing. Yesterday, many of us gathered at the hospital to be there her last day.

We will make funeral arrangements today. This will be mostly for family and closest friends. I will also hope to have a sweat ceremony soon in her name and for all the mothers in the world--including those suffering from the ills of this world. It's time to make things right. To turn everything around toward the natural order, the natural laws, and like the Raramuri and other indigenous peoples, put ourselves in accord with nature and our own natures.

To my mother, I pray she is in peace, enveloped in the benevolent hands of the Creator, in the abundance of the ancestors, among all the indigenous who have died and been slaughtered for us to live. In the Raramuri tongue, I tell her Kwira Va: Hello and Goodby.

Que en paz descances, mi madrecita.


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