Chile, the 1940-s; Italians. Most, first generation emigrants. Catholics; the right wing engraved into their DNA….
A young woman and her three children enter the home of her dying mother-in-law. The two women have not spoken for years; ever since their last falling out, in which both said things that would never be unsaid and which would mark them until death – as it turned out.
Records are sketchy as to what was said exactly, and by whom. But on this day the three small children will learn that it had involved a curse their mother put onto the ‘old witch’ in payment for her disrespect.
Later, when the children are old enough to ask their mother for details of that day, and what had lead to it, their mother openly replies – as if somehow putting curses on family members were still a common thing. Well, it would seem that with emigrants from the Old World – even in 1940-s – it still was.
The curse had been clearly formulated, without frazzle, as curses need to be:
“Old witch, you will not die until I forgive you ….” – hatred put to words and given a place in the everyday of things.
It has been years since that fateful day. A month ago, grandmother suffered a massive stroke. The extensive bleeding in her brain killed her right away, speaking in terms of human dignity that is. Though, technically, for almost a month, in a coma, she can still be considered to be a collection of somewhat ‘functioning’ organs and can thus not yet be boxed. She hangs on, amazing family, friends and the medical professionals alike with her heroic inability to find peace. Stoic – the emigrant has always seen worse….
There isn’t a prayer in the community that can prompt the Lord to wing this gentle soul and take it into His kingdom. The suffering – for all – is exasperating, for no-one knows that it isn’t God’s cruelty at all prolonging it, but a thing as human and clear as a duty that was forced upon the old woman by the wife of her only son.
And on this day, with her young children by her side, the young woman decides it is time to end it; to release the old bat into the arms of God at last.
Standing by the side of their grandmother’s bed, the children observe their mother cross herself with short and deliberate stabs to her own chest and lips. They watch her lower her hand to the old woman’s forehead and then strike it swiftly down the pale face that now feels nothing but still will not disobey the power of the oath.
Years later, the children will recall – though, this has yet to be confirmed – hearing their mother word inside a stifled sigh, as her hand touches the grandmother’s face, “Enough. Go.” – a whisper powerful enough to wing souls indeed and open the gates to kingdoms only God (and Italians, apparently) have the might to open.
The children’s grandmother was buried at the Parque del Recuerdo in Santiago the next day.