Today we learned that Don Francisco passed away.
I wasn't surprised by this sad news. When we visited Francisco two months ago, he appeared to be declining in physical strength and in spirit. My Salvadoran goddaughter and I knelt on the floor beside his mattress and bent close so we could hear him. We held his chilled hands in ours and sang the one song we knew he loved, "Alabare." He sang with his heart and his lips, but with no strength of voice. We knew his time with us would be short.
Our visit to Casa Esperanza today was made with guitar in hand and voices ready to lift Don Francisco's spirits. When we learned that he was gone, we did not go upstairs, we did not go to his room. We missed him, but "Alabare" was sung, along with many other lively tunes so that all the clients in the house were laughing and clapping and singing with great enthusiasm!
Tonight, Mama Trini shared the story of Don Francisco's last days...
On Sunday he was grumpy and spoke in an unkind way to the woman who cares for him over the weekend. On Monday he did not want to eat, nor did he want his vitamin. He never took any medicine. He was blind and his hip was broken, but he never suffered any pain and never asked for any medications, not even acetaminophen for a headache. On Monday he asked the women who care for him to forgive him. He asked each one, 'Forgive me, forgive me.' On Tuesday he ate only a little bit of plantain and some milk, and continued to ask, 'Forgive me.' As the women who care for him we thought he was preparing to die. On Wednesday he went to sleep and by Thursday morning he had passed away.
Don Francisco will forever live in our hearts, and every time we sing "Alabare" his baritone voice and lively guitar will surely be accompanying us from heaven. Good-bye, Don Francisco...bum, bum, bum, bum.