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Letter from Honduras: Who has the juice, now?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 10, 2010 - I told you last month about John’s beautiful day. There were about 60 guests, but I never could have imagined how we would multiply.

Melissa Pomerantz, who teaches writing at Parkway North High School, exclaimed, “There he is!” when I appeared unannounced at her class, making my “rounds.” Then I noticed, “Dear Dr. Dulick,” on the board. What the ...?

She had her students write sympathy notes to me for my brother’s death. Not only that. John’s service was focused, as it were, on his unique idea to make a little viewfinder in a piece of construction paper to better appreciate “so many beautiful things in the world.” Melissa’s class made viewfinders!

“I just didn’t want you to mourn alone,” she said, and I just about lost it. She gave me the letters, 26 in all, and you can tell me, from a few excerpts, if they sound like they’re from strangers. 

Dear Dr. Dulick,

Today as I woke up I thought today would be just another day of school. Until Ms. Pomerantz’ class. In this class we learned about you and your brother. He is one of the heroes of the world! Giving back is a huge thing and I’m very sorry for your lost. I don’t know your brother but just by hearing about him I know he’s in Good Hands. 

P.S. Keep making us smile!

Dear Dr. Dulick,

I am a student in Ms. Pomerantz’ class. We just heard about your brother’s last voice message and the lesson he left inside. Everyone took a piece of construction paper and cut a box in the middle of it. Then we all found an object in the room and looked at it with more detail. We overlook beautiful things, because we don’t take time to focus on the little things. The view finder in my opinion helps block the negativity in the world and helps find the beauty in normal everyday objects.

Dear Dr. Dulick,

I am not a person of many words. However, your eulogy for your brother sent shivers down my spine and left me with two words, the first one being “beautiful,” and the second being “precious. I would like to thank you and say very sorry for your lost.

Well, you got the juice now, Dr. Dulick.

“Sorry for your LOST.” Not a mistake, really, since that’s how we felt.

Teresa Jorgen treated me and her nephew Bryan and his mom to “The Lion King” at the Fox. I had never seen the stage show before, and I was overwhelmed. As the lights came up for intermission, Teresa thought something was wrong. “No, no, I’m crying, but I’m happy.” It’s about great losses, a father, a son, a family, impossible odds, life and death -- well, you know the story. You got the juice now, Simba.

I couldn’t even say how much I missed Chemo. If only I could have shown up in his sky by night, like the lion king. I did call several times, both looking at the same moon.

I did not get back to Honduras ’til the end of August, but three major events crammed the schedule.

First, a wedding. Weddings are a rarity around here. Oh, most people are “casados,” but that is, shall we say, a social, not a legal status. And unlike the United States, a church wedding is not legal, either. So when Tania and Dennis put their status on Facebook as “Married,” I wondered. “Oh, we got married civilly here in San Pedro Sula, but for us, the real wedding will be in Las Vegas, at the church!” Now, of course, the church encourages a sacramental union, but no young couple can imagine a wedding without the bash, and that’s expensive. That’s probably why Tania and Dennis put at the bottom of their wedding invitation: “Your gifts, please, in cash.”

I’ve known Tania all her life. One of Erlinda and Guillermo’s 12 children, among whom are Maricela, mother of Helen and Marité. Tania has that beauty and charm and presence that make all the family natural actors, dancers, performers of all kinds. So a wedding was the perfect stage, and she did not disappoint. Dennis played his part very well, too. Sort of a fairy-tale, but for real!

That was Saturday, Aug. 25. The very next day, another blowout, the annual parish-wide celebration to conclude the Month of the Family, with about 3,000 in attendance. Two years ago, Las Vegas played host, and it was a huge amount of work. This year it was Victoria’s turn.

The crowd gathered at the clinic at the edge of town and paraded through the streets singing and stopping every now and then for a little preaching from the pastor, Padre Jaime, all the way to the church at the other end of town. Padre Jaime loves these “processions”; it’s his way of reminding everyone of the Catholic culture in the community. But what with the heat and the distance, I was exhausted by the time we reached our destination. Chemo was being very cooperative, but there was no way we could get inside the crowded church. So we snuck away a little early to get something to eat. Still, it was a glorious day.

We had to save our strength for the next day, the long bus trip to Tegucigalpa, to celebrate Elio’s birthday. Because of this big parish thing, I had missed Elio’s last three birthdays, so, even though I had just been in Tegucigalpa returning from the States, I headed right back there. Not only me and Chemo, but his nephew Joel and cousin Dionis. I knew it was crazy, but I figured (1) Chemo had not been to Tegus since April and (2) much as I enjoy Chemo, a kid wants companions his own age. Also, call me morbid, but Chemo’s operation is coming up in October, and anything can happen. Should I be cutting back right now, like the Ryan budget?

If anything, Elio was cutting back, and he apologized that the party was more “modest” this year, due to economic restraints. But with Mema his wife and the rest of his family and friends there, it’s always a “fiesta,” so much love and fun, and dancing! Not to mention the food! If they were cutting back, you sure couldn’t tell. I had two big helpings, at Mema’s insistence, of course.

My diet will have to wait at least one more week. We’re off to Progreso and Morazán, to catch up on our visits there. So we can’t be skimping!

Oh, yes, one more thing. The kids thank you for the donations of clothes! And even a doll!

This just in! When Chepito spotted my copy of the Summer issue of “The Round Table,” published by Karen House, the Catholic Worker shelter for women and children in North St. Louis, he folded it up and snuck it out of the house.

He just brought me his full-color version of the striking cover drawing by Carolyn Griffeth. Its theme, “Life Together,” rooted in community. Can we keep that in mind, especially in these contentious times?

Miguel Dulick has lived in Las Vegas, Honduras, since 2003. There he has no projects, no plans, no investments -- only to share the life of the poor. For years he has been sending reports back to friends and family in his native St. Louis. In sharing these reports, we offer a glimpse of how life is so different, yet so much the same, in different places.