When I first arrived in the village Doña Angelica was an active grandmother, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. I used to visit her to dress her leg ulcers. She enjoyed attending Bible studies in a neighbour´s home, and was always hard at work, and ready to receive visitors with a hot, black, sweet coffee.
As the years went by, I began encountering her wandering along the road in a bright red jumper. She no longer recognised me, her wandering was without purpose, and her lack of road sense dangerous. Alzheimer´s disease was claiming her mind, leaving her confused and vulnerable.
Her son and his family moved in with her to care for her. She had no pension, no health insurance. She was totally dependent on her children for her well-being. Here it is expected that parents care for their children when they are young, work with them in the fields or providing child-care when they are older and later depend on their children to care for them when they can no longer work.
When I visited Doña Angelica this week, her son and his wife were in her wooden board house, tending to her ulcers and feeding her soup. The house was totally bare except for a bed, and a chair. Doña Angelica was sitting on the plastic chair, her feet resting on a piece of old mattress. She was painfully thin, and totally unaware of what was going on around her. When she spoke, all that came out of her mouth was gobbledygook.
“My siblings and I take it in turns to care for her now,” her son told me. “It is my sister´s turn really at the moment, but she had to go to Quito to help her daughter, so we are doing it.”
“It´s hard caring for someone who needs everything done for them, isn´t it?” I commented.
“Yes, but what kind of son would fail to care for his mother?” the son replied. “God tests us through these times to see what kind of heart we have. We cannot turn our backs on her.”
Doña Angelica is leaving this world soon, and will leave nothing material behind. Yet she is leaving a legacy behind her. She has taught her children what it means to love; to love sacrificially and wholeheartedly. She has put this lesson into practice and is now receiving loving service in return.
I think the Good Lord is waiting to receive her with a “well done” and a hot, sweet, black coffee by the pearly gates.