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Nicaragua farewell has a serendipitous tenor | Guest Column

Guest Column by Maggie Pettit

This column is dedicated to Don Salvador Gutierrez Traña. Que descanse en paz.

One dusty, hot bus ride around Concepción Volcano Dorita and I planned my Nicaragua farewell. On May 1, we would ride our bikes around the entire island, stopping at various points of interest for meals and rest.

This idea had actually been in Dorita’s head for several years, after witnessing former volunteer Jim Starrs do the same, in parallel to Chilly Hilly, but only until now did she find someone crazy enough to do it with her.

Then, on May 9, Dorita planned to accompany me to the Managua airport where we were going to eat tasty sandwiches in the waiting area before our final hug goodbye. Thereafter, she planned on traveling to León that same day where her son, Hendrick-son, a college student, would celebrate his 19th birthday.

But if there is something I have learned in Nicaragua, it is to take seriously the expression, “Si Dios quiere (If God wants it to be so).”

May 8, 2009

9:42 a.m.

Altagracia

I had been waiting in Dorita’s house all morning, beating the dust and trinkets off the top of a catch-all cabinet, joining in the anxious bustle of women, cleaning silently.

The television, a former focal point of the room, had been removed a couple days before when there was a rumor that Don Salvador was coming home, but the hospital had decided to keep him longer.

Today, it was confirmed that Dora’s father was actually coming home. The hospital in Masaya had worked for two weeks trying to rehabilitate him after his third heart attack, but his condition had not improved. His family wanted to bring him home to be at peace on his island.

After the ambulance drove up and the team of family helpers poured in, the empty house filled quickly with noise again, but an uneasy noise. As the commotion fell, my eyes met Dorita’s and our bodies gravitated towards each other. We hugged hard and long. I could feel her fear, her exhaustion. She had been at her father’s bedside in the hospital the entire two weeks, barely sleeping or eating.

The priest arrived not long after to give Don Salvador his final rites. I stood in the bedroom among the entire family, hands open to the sky, hoping for peace, for Don Salvador.

11:40 p.m.

The bustle had finally calmed. The wooden rocking chairs and plastic chairs were filled all day long with concerned neighbors and relatives, peeking past the white lace curtain for a few moments with Don Salvador. Dorita and I had just come into the bedroom after chatting on the front stoop for a while, recalling memories of my first few weeks here, when we were just figuring each other out.

Now, I sat with Dorita and her sister, Mirna, in the near-darkness, at Don Salvador’s bedside, whispering in the silence, nodding off in our chairs. He rested with great tranquility, especially after having such a hard day with the transfer to the island and his breathing problems.

I had visited him in the hospital in Masaya the weekend before, given him a handmade card of himself riding a horse, just like the photo in the living room. I took his hand, and he squeezed mine very hard, almost trying to prove his strength. Very lucidly, he’d asked me when I would be leaving, and I told him the date.

By serendipity or fate, Don Salvador had returned home to see me off, the day before my departure. But our goodbye was not spoken, it was not planned.

It was an undefined moment among the peace of that late night. He was immersed in that peace in being home, on his island. May our dear Salvador rest forever in that utter peace.

This is the final column written by Maggie Pettit during her 10-month stay on Ometepe Island. To learn more about the Bainbridge-Ometepe Sister Islands Association, visit www.bosia.org. If you have comments or reflections you would like to share with Maggie, you can reach her at maggiepettit22@gmail.com.

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