A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Friday, June 21, 2013

Nelmi Noehmy Artiaga Martinez

My dear friend and indefatigable supporter, Nelmi Artiaga, died last Monday. From what, no one really knows. She had been fighting chronic illness of some sort or another and had been in and out of the hospital for the past year. I am told that this past month she lost a tremendous amount of weight, bled profusely from random orifices and simply stopped eating. Nelmi leaves behind 4 children, 3 of whom are under the age of 15, and a serious void in the Los Laureles community. Always aglow with joy, always a servant, always eager to chat - Nelmi was dearly loved by everyone in the community and people there tell me that already the place seems a little deader without her laughter and quick wit. For my part, I balled when I got the call from her sister last week. Nelmi was one of the first adults to befriend me and her friendship was rock-solid; when I lived in the community she would stop by the house occasionally just to check-up on me, when ugly and false rumors once surfaced she stamped them out and this past year, and in spite of her failing health, she called me regularly to make sure that I was doing well and still intent on returning to Los Laureles. Nelmi was one of the adults I turned to when I needed "grown-up help" with certain projects; I remember specifically when a young, homeless boy named Jeffrey was dying from poison it was she that offered to help watch him in the hospital with me 24/7 and then helped with the funeral arrangements later on. There was a period of time during my year in the community that I couldn't afford to feed all of the kids that were living with me; Nelmi, and without my asking, took it upon herself to set aside food from her make-shift stand every Sunday night and deliver it to my door so that the kids could eat a decent meal. Even though she was only two years my senior she called me her nephew and treated me as such; when I came back for a visit this past January she roused herself and prepared a feast in my honor, whenever I might pass her in the community she would bless me, and she asked me to be her youngest daughter's godfather. More than all of that though, I simply enjoyed being with her; she was a joy to talk to, always with a funny story, a word of encouragement or a strong correction to set me straight. I am heartbroken over the loss of my aunt - I know she's in a place with no pain and great joy, that she's with her Lord; I just wasn't ready to see her go quite so soon.
Nelmi with two of her four children; Naomi and Abel

Monday, June 10, 2013

Life Upended...Again.

I'm a sentimentalist at heart and can rarely be content with the way things are "in-the-moment". In my heart I have this constant nagging suspicion that the present state of things is an aberration, a fall or slide of sorts from a more perfect time when things were more as they ought to be. I often feel as though the organizations I choose to associate with are in their death-throws and that if I could only wind back the clock a bit I might be a part of something that were in its heyday. I feel this way about my beloved city of Williamsport, about the recreational Summer swim team that I'm currently coaching, about the Mennonite Church at-large and my own home congregation, about our public school system here; heck I even get the feeling sometimes that the Lycoming Creek that flows through the City is less full than what I remember as a child. And I don't wish to turn back time to a specific date, though I do get the sense that I would have loved living in the 1920's-1950's; rather I just wish things were more as I remember them when I was younger - or imagined them to be. In my head I know that the swim team I coached in the early 2000's wasn't perfect, in my head I realize that the Mennonite Church has always had problems and issues to deal with, in my head I know that any organization is made up of flawed people with flawed motives and is thusly and inherently flawed. In my heart though I am blind to the flaws and idealize the past - suffice it to say, I don't like change. I don't want people to move, or change, or die - though I myself am free to do so. I want people and organizations and businesses to be just as I left them. I want life to be familiar and fixed. I want control and abhor the chaos that time brings. I am this way and hopelessly so, though I have to think that that's part of what it means to be nostalgic. I write this now and am thinking about it right now because as you may or may not know, I am headed back to La Ceiba as a private citizen at the end of July. I look forward to the new adventure, the new chapter in an unfinished story; I want though for life there to be just as I left it. And it definitely isn't.

So much about Los Laureles and the people there has changed in an inexorable way this past year that when I think on trying to find a place again within its daily rhythms, a certain malaise takes hold and I quick have to think on something else for fear of growing despondent and thus emoting. I don't like to emote; you know this. I know life and time marches on and that nothing remains fixed; only God is immutable, and I think sometimes that my desire to see things unchanged is one more of a need for control and a desire to actually be God than anything else. I too blame myself for some of the more negative change that has occurred in my absence; thinking, wrongly of course, that if only I'd been there that life might have gone differently for certain people. I think this about Cristian mostly, I have to believe that he wouldn't have dared pulled his stunt if I were still a fixture in the Laureles community. I think this too about Sergio. He called me a month ago to inform me that his girlfriend was pregnant and that they would be moving in together in short order.

I wanted to cry.

A lot.

I didn't.

All that I had worked for, the youth that I had invested in the most with my time and money and love had rejected everything I had taught them just for some simple, base pleasure.

Not so unlike their mentor then as it turns out.

Sergio called me to inform and quasi-confess but I could hear his voice straining for something more and my hesitation at an audible response was a little disconcerting to him. He asked me in a shaky voice if I still loved him. I responded immediately that I did and that I always would, no matter thee circumstance. The tension between us faded instantly and we began talking about the future, about his impending responsibilities and fatherhood. Change was upon us and we had to make the best of it.

I hate change but it is inevitable and the more it happens, the more I realize how much God truly is in control and is working all things out for the Good. Moreover, I realize more and more how little control I have in this life, and that that's a good thing.