TRUNFANDO de LO MATERIAL a LO ESPIRITUAL:
A Eulogy for Ito JUAN AMARO GARCIA
On Father's Day
June 16, 2013
What can I say about my father that everyone here doesn't already know? I was always afraid of this time the day that we would lose him from this world and release him to the world that he cherished, that of the Kingdom of God.
As I know the story, my dad and his two brothers went with their mother, Josefa Amaro, to Mexico City on a manda to la Virgen de Guadalupe. On their way back from Mexico City his mother brought him and his brothers to her ancestral homeland, Lobatos. The rest is history. My mother and dad met and married a couple of years later.
My dad was a WWII veteran. He rarely talked to me about it other than the fact he was a cook as well as a medic in the 404th Engineer Battalion. He did tell us some stories about creating snacks and deserts for the officers he cooked for. He was told some big shot generals were coming. He was supposed to make pancakes and used too much baking powder or some such ingredient. So he had too much batter. So he used the extra by making cupcakes. The generals came and tasted the cupcakes and demanded to know who made them. My dad thought he was going to get in trouble. Instead the generals wanted to know if there was more. He told this story many times and each time he told it a bit differently. He always got a kick telling the story, especially to his granddaughters.
During those early years he and his cousin Leandro Amaro and their wives, Maria Amaro (la madrina) and Bonifacia and children worked their way through the San Joaquin Valley fields picking cotton in Mendota and eventually wound up in Morgan Hill. Ita and Ito sharecropped strawberry fields, worked in the packinghouses, and eventually got steady work in the canneries in San Jose. My dad was an AFL-CIO cement mason. My mom and dad were avid labor union members and so we were lucky to have a home, have health insurance, and through hard work able to provide the American Dream. We went to college, found jobs and eventually their modeling which has kept us alive. During the time we lived in San Jose my dad and mom supported my sister and I to go to school, the true American dream. Of course I was involved in the politics of the day and the student movement, which my dad did not always agree with. But he did not criticize me.
During the years we were out of the house my mom and dad became servants of the Lord. They were inspired by the Cursillo movement, the Guadalupano Society, and finally el Movimiento Carismatico de la Renovacion, the charismatic movement. My mom found a place where she could express her lifelong pain and sorrow. My Dad rejoiced in having discovered the Holy Spirit. They were so involved that we had to make an appointment to see them. They were involved in the church every step of the way and that's why they have always been free of disease, distress, anxiety, and depression.
Another incident out of many that I remember clearly was in 1993 when my dad and mom had bought an RV. They had never camped in their life except when working in the fields earlier in their life together. The decided that they were going to go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the 25th Anniversary Convention of the Charismatic Movement in the United States. I looked at the distance, the weather, and decided I was going. I pictured my mom driving this big ol' RV and struggling against the rain and winds. And indeed that's what happened. When both my dad and I got to Oklahoma we let mom drive. It was the worst time as she dove through a storm of rain, sleet, and rivers of highway. We went and spent almost ten days together. It turned out to be one of the best events of my life. We started talking about what happened in our early years. We laughed, we cried, and we forgave each other. And for the first time in my life that I could remember my dad told me that he loved me. Ever since then my dad always said “I love you”. I love you too, Ito. On the easy back we went to Chicago to visit Pablo Lara, we went to Clyde, Kansas where Ito was born, and then we had to rush home because Cecilia was about to be born.
On the other hand Ito was quiet. He wasn't necessarily a conversationalist. His conversation was his silence. He said everything through his quiet demeanor. You could be telling him something and you could wait for hours it seemed before he would respond if he did at all, but when he did you knew he had been listening. He mulled things over a lot before he would speak. It was this silence that inspired me to become a member of the Contemplative Outreach movement. Before the word there're was silence.
Ito was much loved by everyone. He was a spiritual man, a holy man. He was quiet and did his work in support of Ita and her calling to awaken the spirit in all of us. Ito said prayers for all of us. Said the rosary daily. He was a man of character, contemplation, and deep spiritual understanding. You never heard him talk about anyone, criticize anyone, speak negatively about anyone. Even when he was nudged out as sacristan of the church he did not complain although he was hurt. He was a man of joy, respect, and humor. He was funny. Everything he said had a double, triple meaning.
Another thing about Ito was that he always had these little sayings and quips. In the last few days of his life he made a few. One day sitting in his living room chair he said, “Turn it around to see if it looks the same”. Life is about that. You have to turn it around what ever you are doing, thinking, and feeling. Nothing looks the same from another angle. If it does, you have to be suspicious. Another thing he said was “How can you see from far away?” This is not just a literal question. It applies to things like your Christian practice. How can you read the word of God if you are far away from its truths in your life. Christ is about love, not about hate. You accept others not criticize them. You take time to understand them and not disregard them. You want to help the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the unemployed, not blame them for their problems. You want to help them, not hurt them in your thoughts and actions. One final thing he said amongst many other things we heard was “Oh boy, we had a lot of fun; now its time to face the real truth.” He told this to his grandchildren when the adults were not around. He knew his days were limited. My mom and sister and I were trying to protect him by not letting him know he was terminally ill, but he was trying to protect us by not letting us know he knew.
Analicia also said that Ito, when he was sitting in his chair, moved his left hand towards his left and upwards as if someone had taken his hand. Ito looked up and said, “La Madrina me dio su mano.” La Madrina of course is Ito and Ita's life long Madrina from their marriage. She passed a couple of years ago and the three seemed inseparable throughout their adult lives.
This last year was the only times I have know my dad to be sick. He had pneumonia in his lung last year and he healed from that. It was in November of last year that we found out he had incurable inoperable cancer. It was only a matter of time and we were there for him. My mom was strong and available to the love of her life. My wife Josie and our daughters, Maricela, Analicia, and Cecilia, were here daily the last few weeks taking turns attending to his needs. Two wonderful women, Martita and Silvia, were by Ito's side every night. Silvia was here every evening at 10 and stayed until 3. Martita came at 3 and stayed until 8. Maria Yanez was hired to stay with my dad all day. She was a miracle worker knowing exactly what to do as my dad's pain increased. They deserve a lot of recognition and gratitude for their loving kindness, compassion. My primo hermano, Oscar Castanon, was with them for 2 or 3 weeks before Ito died helping with my dad. Myself, my mom, and sister, and the rest of our family will be forever grateful for his compassion for his tio, as well as the women who helped care for my dad in his last days.
My daughters were wonderful to the last minute. Maricela who just finished her first year of medical school stayed with my dad and mom and helped us channel medical opinion from friends, professors, and others she knew to give Ito the best treatment care possible. Analicia was present and helping in everyway she could by supporting, holding up, and backing up everything needed in those moments. Cecilia came from Los Angeles even though she had summer responsibilities in school. She was there in the last moments as we witnessed my dad's final breaths. Josie was there daily in thought and spirit and in her presence to try to help Ito be comfortable. Everyone helped through their good thoughts, kind words, prayers, positive energy, and love sent our way. My primas, Sandy and Irene, from Oxnard and Tia Chita were here every time they could over the last few weeks and the months after we knew of his illness. To them I send them all my love.
On his last night he left us when no one was looking. Silvia was going to give him his medicine. He wouldn't open his mouth. She called Cecilia. Cecilia called me and by the time we knew it Ito had had his last breath.
To my dad on Father's Day I say “I love you, Ito.” I know you are in heaven looking in on us, chuckling, sonriendo, saying, “I got you! “
Presented in Spanish to the viewers at St. Joseph Church, Firebaugh, CA
June 16, 2013