Sunday, February 28, 2016

Filiberto, Rest in Peace

A few minutes ago I received a phone call from the village of Xalpitzahuac and received the sad news that twenty-one year-old Filiberto Octaviano Flores died a few hours ago. Rest in peace, my friend.
Filiberto in a photo taken a couple of months ago
Filiberto was one of the kindest, gentlest persons I have met here in the mountains. A couple of months ago he gave me a handwritten note directed to Father Fred and Mission Mexico. The note read as follows:

Father Fred, my name is Filiberto Octaviano Flores, and I am writing this letter to you because I got sick. The doctors sent me to Mexico City, but you know that in the Mountain we don't have much money. I am asking you to please help me, because I'd like to get better. I am married, and I have two daughters: one is four years old, and the other is ten months old. We are from Xalpitzahuac. I participate in the group of the Lady of Guadalupe relay run, and there Sister [Lorena] told us about you and the persons you help in the Mountain. My brother is going to accompany me, and my wife is going to stay to look after my daughters and to work in the field because we are peasant farmers and from our work we get what we need to eat. Father, you are aware of the need that there is in our village. For that reason I ask you to help me. I ask too that you pray for me. Thank you.
This is a copy of Filiberto's handwritten note
Yes, Mission Mexico helped Filiberto. In Mexico City the doctors said that Filiberto was suffering from anemia and leukemia. During the past few months Filiberto made several trips to Mexico City. But his struggle for health has now ended. Tomorrow his final journey will be to the village church and cemetery in Xalpitzahuac. The future for his wife and two daughters will be a difficult one.
The parish church in Xalpitzahuac
Filiberto’s fate certainly makes me think differently in terms of my own health problems. For about a month now I have been ill with a sore throat and dry cough. Mine could be the words that Charles Dickens penned in the mid-1800s: I am at the moment deaf in the ears, hoarse in the throat, red in the nose, green in the gills, damp in the eyes, twitchy in the joints and fractious in temper from a most intolerable and oppressive cold.
This is what a sick Mike MacDonald looked like two weeks ago
During that month I actually visited six different doctors here in Tlapa. All prescribed medicines for me; three gave me injections. Nothing worked. Finally, my good friend, Abel Barrera, director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain, insisted that I visit a friend of his, an otorrinolaringólogo (ear, nose, and throat specialist) in the state capital of Chilpancingo. The medicines that Doctor Javier Cuevas gave me seem to be working, and I am now feeling quite a bit better. I might mention that when Doctor Cuevas saw the list of medicines prescribed for me by the doctors in Tlapa, he first laughed, and then he got angry. He said that it was no wonder that I wasn't getting better. 
Part of Doctor Cuevas' recommendations was to use a nebulizer three times a day for five days
I am grateful to Abel Barrera for insisting that I go to see this specialist, and to Benito for driving me there and back. Abel arranged this even though he was busy preparing an acceptance speech for an award he received last week in Mexico City from the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination (CONAPRED). Abel ended his acceptance speech with these words: “I dedicate [this award] to the fathers and mothers of Ayotzinapa, who are struggling so that we might see a Mexico where the only thing that disappears is injustice and discrimination. Alive they [43 students from the teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa] were taken away; alive we want them back!”
Thanks to Abel Barrera—and congratulations on his latest award
I am also grateful to the many people who visited me while I was ill. Many brought me fruit or soup or other food. Doña Margarita, a well-known “healer” in the village of Copanatoyac, visited me at home more than a half-dozen times, usually accompanied by her daughter Herandy; that led to massages, teas, sauna bath, reflexology, etc. Everyone seemed to want me to get better. (That definitely includes my two sisters and two brothers in Canada, who seemed to be more worried about me than even I was.)
Herandy and her mother, Margarita—thanks for everything, my friends
Being ill also meant that I didn’t go to any location to see Pope Francis during his six-day trip to different parts of Mexico (February 12–17). Back in Rome, Francis expressed his gratitude for this “experience of transfiguration,” in which he experienced firsthand “a body that has been wounded so many times, a people that has so many times been oppressed, despised, desecrated in its dignity.” The people of Mexico—especially the marginalized and impoverished—are most grateful for this visit by the pope.
Pope Francis praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City

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