September 16, 2013 Santiago Atitlán, Sololá, Guatemala
“Breathe me alive that I may become a part of the melody…”
— Prayer for the Blessing Hour, Macrina Wiederkehr
Doña Maria* sits outside the concrete room she rents from her nephew. Wrapped in a black sweater, she gazes up at me and holds out her right hand. I slowly lift her to her feet as she smacks her gums, anticipating the tortillas, café, and sopa we’ve brought to her this day.
Her gorgeous grey hair is coiled around her head, entwined with red ribbon that delicately cascades down her back.
Julia bends down to yell in Maria’s good ear – “Rre wey!” and points to the tortillas on the table.
Doña Maria yells a question at Julia in Tz’utujil, asking her what month it is. Julia replies, “¡Septiembre!”
“Septiembre?!?!” Doña Maria exclaims in amazement.
She grabs my shoulder with her only arm and then looks upward. She lifts her arm from my shoulder and lifts it upward in gratitude, praying in Tz’utujil, thanking God for giving her the breath of life for yet another month.
Pointing to the food that we have arranged on her small table, she looks upward again and thanks God for the food in front of her.
She prays, “Miltiox, miltiox chawa.” (Thank you, thank you so very much.)
Doña Maria turns to me again, speaking over me a benediction in a language older than my faith.
Tears fill my eyes.
I quickly blink them away as I bend down to kiss her cheek.
”Miltiox chawa, Raquel,” she whispers to me, “miltiox chawa.”
“¡Provecho!” I yell to her in her good ear.
And that sound is more beautiful than all the music of all the marimbas, bombas and liras that fill the streets of Santiago.
Breathing in the Melody,
*Doña Maria is a Tz’utujil elder who is sponsored by the “Meals on Sandals” program — part of Sharing the Dream’s Casa de Abuelitos. To learn more about how YOU can sponsor and provide meals for Tz’utujil elders in Santiago through Casa de Abuelitos, please visit Sharing the Dream’s Elder Project Page.