¡Meet Maria! Written 2014 Mayo
One thing there is no shortage of here in Chile is interesting people who are living difficult lives. Maria is a woman in her 70’s. She lives alone in a small house here in Los Vilos. Well, almost alone. Her son ‘un borracho’ (Roberto) as she introduced him lives ‘around’ her house. He sleeps on the front porch stoop at night to guard over her home and during the day he hovers in the back patio area and slips in and out of the house when she isn’t looking to raid the fridge. He’s seldom invited in but you can tell she loves him. Maria is very hard of hearing, even when she has her hearing aid on.
Dale and Pres. Jerez visited her at her home and soon afterwards she fell ill (not due to the visit hopefully) and asked for a blessing. She had been in the hospital so they picked her up in the car, gave her a ride back home and then a blessing. Evidently she had been in the hospital for several days because upon entering her home they we all greeted with quite a situation. Her cats had been shut up in her hogar. There was excrement all over and several of her ‘grandma’s collection items’ (vases, urns, figurines etc) were broken. It was a wreck and the smell was horrible.
Another week or two passed and I was invited to go visiting teaching to this same house. Maria could not hear us knocking at her door nor could she hear the ring of her phone when we tried to call her. We left but later returned for a 2nd try. At last her son (Roberto) came out from around back. He said he would get her and soon disappeared into the rear section of the patio. We heard him as he proceeded to yell very loudly and pounded on her back entrance. It worked and Maria woke up!
She let us in the front door. The smell of cat urine was still very strong in her home even though the mess had been cleaned up. As we began chatting a white cat came out from under the couch. I watched as it jumped from the floor to the sofa then to the table top and proceeded climbing up her lace curtains at the front window clawing and shredding them. Soon, another white cat pushed inside the front door which hadn’t been latched tightly and I saw a third cat waiting outside. She said she only owned one cat. We’ve noticed that most of the cats and dogs here seem to enter homes, stores, restaurants and churches at will. Often they are ‘shooed’ out but if you are in any way agressive to an animal you are frowned upon. Due to Hna Marias hearing loss her speech is a bit slurred but she is still understandable. (Uh, that is if you can understand Spanish ;)
Well, last Sunday Marie was asked to share a few remarks in Sacrament Mtg. When it was her turn, she gathered her scriptures and purse and headed up to the pulpit to deliver her talk. She is very intelligent and has a beautiful, strong testimony of Jesus Christ. About 3 minutes into her talk the chapel erupted with the sound of her cell phone ringing. She has to set it really loud so she can hear it, but it turns out she was the only one in the congregation who couldn’t hear it. She had set her purse on the side of the pulpit/podium and so one of the members of the branch presidency, hoping to help her, reached for it (hesitantly and timidly, using only his thumb and index finger). He soon realized it wasn’t in her purse but on her body. She was wearing a sweater with a large pocket on the side, so he lightly tapped that as she came all of a sudden came to understand that it was her cell phone ringing! At this point she gasped and flung aside the scarf at her neck, and reaching into her bosom, she retrieved her cell-phone and turned it off. (Luckily she didn’t answer it J)
I would be lying to say this was the only exciting moment of this meeting. Meetings are seldom normal here. On Mother’s Day little 9 year old Carlota, was sitting next to me. She had a small balloon filled with flour (rather than air). It had a face drawn with marker on it. During the meeting she stretched it a little too far, once too often and it EXPLODED, spraying flour all over herself, the pew and the floor. I managed to escape the worst of it. Her mom was sooooo distraught and began trying to clean it up with her fingers and scraping it together into piles with pieces of paper. It is by far the biggest mess I have ever seen in the chapel (yes, even worse than vomit). Clouds of flour dust covered Carlota’s black knit pants, dark hair and chubby cheeks as she tried to help her mom. Seriously I thought her mom would never return due to embarrassment. At the end of the meeting we asked an Elder (Beck) to get the vacuum and I explained to her mother that one day she would look back on this incident and laugh about it. I had to reassure her it was OK and that everyone that has ever had a child understood. She broke down and cried pretty hard. She was ready to go home but they stayed through the rest of the meetings. Carlota has some learning problems so I know her mom is pretty stressed at how out-of-control she can get.
Sadly one of the other interruptions for this meeting (the original meeting I was writing about) turned out to be a heart-attack of one of the husband/fathers of a family. He is not a member & was at home when it happened. His wife and 2 (grown) children were scattered in the chapel (one sitting up front on the stand) so each in his own turn, received news of the emergency (via text?) and gathering up their things, left. The father is OK now and expected to recover fully. I spent much of my time during this same meeting helping to entertain a little boy about 4 years old and his sister (2yrs) so their grandma (or great aunt?) could listen to the talks. She usually has her hands full with the kids and doesn’t seem to have an abundance of patience. Sometimes she is louder in trying to shush & corral them & get them to be quiet, than the kids are. It was fun for me to help out but she knew I was caring for them so when the 2 year old escaped out of the chapel a few times it was me chasing her! I always love the look on little kids’ faces when they hear me try to speak Spanish. They know I am worse than them!
*PS-I wrote this post a few weeks ago. This past weekend Roberto passed away. We visited Maria and she told us it all happened in 10min. It was probably due to liver cirrhosis but he ended up having a heart attack. By the time she had run (4-5blocks down the street) to the hospital to get help and returned he was gone. She is very upset to lose one of her children. He was about 50years old. It is very shocking how many people have very short lives here. Health care is Gov. run and really horrible. We know so many maimed, crippled, deaf and blind people who would not be thus if they had had the good fortune to live in the USA. (Not sure how long that will remain true with all the current issues going on with health-care, immigration etc. We are praying for our dear country!)
PSS.... One more update to Meet Maria (Arancivia)
One of Robertos friends that went to Marias house to be with the family and share in their grief and memories at the time of his death, went out back to the patio area. They had a fire going to stay warm and he somehow got too close and caught on fire. Maria told us about this when we last visited her. The ambulence came to her house and he was taken to the La Serena hospital. (a few hours to the north). I learned last week that he too passed away.
Valparaiso from a distance
Valpo - houses being rebuilt from a fire