|Rosemary (body and soul) 31 July 2020
Munificentisimus Deos, November 1 1950 – Pope Pius XII
When Pope Pius XII sat on the chair of St. Peter (defined in Latin Ex-cathedra) all Roman Catholics had to believe on the pain of damnation if they did not believe that when the Virgin Mary died she went up to heaven in body and soul.
Now at my ripe age of 80 I see a philosophic conundrum. Heaven is a place occupied (do souls occupy space?) by souls and if one is good and lucky to reach that lofty place that is heaven one would not see anybody as all would be souls. Except that somewhere in that spiritual place (can it be anywhere?) there is this lovely woman dressed in blue sitting on a chair.
In the last couple of days I have been giving preoccupation and thought to the fact that both my daughters are at a new resort called Huatulco in the State of Oaxaca.
I feel unsettled even though I know that they are having fun visiting with childhood friends who were our neighbours when we lived in Arboledas, Estado de México in the beginning of the 70s.
Because I live alone with two cats (Niño and Niña) and have
few visitors, I enjoy my daily phone conversations with my two daughters. But
there is more. Twice a week my Burnaby daughter Hilary comes for a visit.
Sometimes when I feel especially melancholic I get into my car and visit Hilary
at her Burquitlam Safeway. I buy a couple of Starbucks hot peppermint chocolates
and I glory at the fact that I am chatting with a real person who has a body
presence. She is there.
Now with the two in Mexico I find that missing that body and
soul of those two is why I am sad and lost. They are not here.
It was when I was 8, that our neighbour’s son in our Coghlan neighbourhood, died by running his Vespa onto a crossing train. My mother must have thought that I needed to learn about death as I was taken along to the velorio (wake). It was “un velorio de cuerpo presente”. This meant that the coffin was at the wake and it was an open coffin. What I saw was a face with lots of bandages. It was then that I came to believe that the only people who died or won the lottery were our neighbours and never us.
In 1966 my father died of a heart attack on the street with enough money in his pockets (saving the money to bribe an Argentine general to send me back to Mexico even though I was a conscript in the Argentine Navy and still had 12 months to go) to pay for his funeral. I have no memory of going to the cemetery and visiting the grave he paid for.
When my abuelita died in Veracruz my friend Raúl told me that he and I and a couple of men carried the coffin to the open grave. I have no memory. The same happened with my mother (my Rosemary and I watched her die). So it seems that I have never been to any of those three graves.
In trips to London I liked to go to Westminster Abbey and
step on a large square tile. I would say to myself, “How are you H.G.? I am not sure it makes any sense to me now.
When my Rosemary died on 9 December 2020, Hilary, Alexandra, granddaughter Rebecca and I waited in the living room for the funeral people to come to pick up Rosemary’s body.
Because I have been a photographer and journalist I knew
there was something I had to do. I went up and saw my wife on the bed, dead
with the female cat Niña sleeping on her chest. I took a photograph that I have
not shown anyone. It is exquisite.
I have this memory of the funeral people taking Rosemary’s
shrouded body out the door. It is seared in my mind. She was cremated and our daughter Ale is slowly spreading her mother's ashes in her one acre garden that Rosemary loved.
We all know that the Catholic Church was against cremation and in the Middle Ages. Thieves and murderers were drawn and quartered and heretics were burned on the stake. The prohibition was the then understanding that when Christ came back at the end of the world and those dead would be resurrected, their bodies had to be buried intact.
All the above is in my mind and particularly since both Rosemary and I knew we would never meet again.
There is no cuerpo presente. My grief will not go away. In a week I will welcome the body and souls of my two daughters when they return.
Is that spark that we call life in the body any different from that of a welder’s?
This poem by Uruguayan Mario Benedetti where he says the soul is not the body is lovely.