Body Mind Spirit Soul
Below is an excerpt from my book that details our first trip to Ensenada Mexico where my son experienced a miracle healing in 1987.
Posted to the right is the story of St. Gilbert of Ensenada which describes our return to Ensenada 21 years later and the miracle that again occurred there in our lives.
The trip to Hawaii was the highlight of our lives. The wonderful people there took us up in their arms and in their hearts. They treated us like royalty. They called Kelly their little brother and catered to his every need. Kelly said he must have lived here a long time ago because he felt like he had come home. His spirits started to soar in Hawaii away from the doom and gloom of home. The well-intentioned visits accompanied with casseroles, flowers, tears, and hugs had soon become a premature wake. We needed to get away as a family and recharge our spirits. We did not look back.
We left Hawaii feeling rejuvenated physically, and spiritually. Flying back we stopped in southern California to visit my nephew Jimmy who lived near San Diego. He was living with his estranged father, his father’s wife and their three children. His father’s wife, Francesca, was of Mexican descent; together they owned a little beach house in Mexico, on the western shore of the Baja Peninsula. In Minnesota we have cabins up in the north woods; in southern California it’s beach houses on the Baja. The house was located in a small (non-tourist) fishing village just south of Ensenada.
In the village near their beach home, lived a woman who collected a wild herb called golendrina. With it she made a tea that had a purported healing affect that aided in the discomforts associated with cancer treatments. My nephew thought we should meet this lady. We had one more day before we would fly home and begin more palliative radiation. We also needed to refill Kelly’s anti-seizure medication. But for now it was Carpe Diem! We are off to Mexico.
Guided by my nephew’s father, Butch, we drove down through Tijuana, past Ensenada to the peaceful sea village of Maniadera. There we were introduced to Senora Dona Nieves, a gentile older woman well respected in the village. She offered us the tea that she had collected and would collect more if we needed it. She also mentioned that she had a vision of this blue eyed, blonde little boy from America that sought a healing from God. She said it was our son Kelly. She invited us to stay overnight and attend her chapel services in the morning. We had flight plans to leave the next morning but hey, Carpe Diem rules; flights can be changed; we stayed. Radiation can wait one more day.
We stayed the night at the beach house and the next morning began the most powerful life changing experience of our lives.
Dona Nieves (with instructions from God) had built a small chapel behind her modest home. It was to be used for healing and was decorated with pictures of those who had been healed in the past. We were instructed to wear light colored clothing and to bring fresh flowers for the altar. We were to only have love in our hearts while giving thanks to God for our expected healing.
Before we could enter the door of the chapel, Dona Nieves brushed our heads with fresh herbs and anointed us with strange pungent oil. We made the sign of the cross and were seated appropriately in the room in such a way that was to balance the energies. It all seemed so very ritualistic and strange. We hadn’t a clue what was going to happen; all we knew is that it felt so right. Kelly also knew, for his face was illuminated with spiritual intrigue. Something powerful was working in this chapel, and we embraced it.
A few other locals and their family members arrived and were seated. The Dona lit incense and candles while continually splashing holy oil all around and on her body. She seemed to be in continuous prayer and beseachment. Soon two ladies arrived after having traveled a long distance by bus. They seemed to be important to the ceremony as they were greeted with much fervent prayer and hand waving. One of the ladies, Maria, an older almost toothless woman, was revered as a powerful spiritual healer and was seated in a hardback chair next to the altar. The other lady with her was Marta who seemed to assist Maria, and was seated on a bench located on a sidewall at the front of the church. Once everyone was seated, Dona Nieves began to speak and open the ceremony. Everything was spoken in Spanish, but fortunately my nephew’s stepmother was bilingual and interpreted for us.
The service was a strange mixture of Mexican Catholicism coupled with local mysticism. Typical Catholic mass preliminaries were conducted and then the focus shifted to Maria. The little old woman had gone silent and seemed in deep meditation. She was rocking back and forth in her chair, breathing rhythmically in long, slow, inhales that whistled through the large gaps in the upper row of her teeth. In a trance like state, Maria slowly rose to her feet with arms outstretched and announced in a deep booming voice that our Lord Jesus Christ was here and speaking through this woman. We were asked, one at a time, to come up before our savior. Maria’s persona now seemed to be gone, and Jesus was in the room speaking to us in the first person.
A strange very wonderful energy filled the air as she spoke. You could feel a tangible goodness, a powerful all encompassing energy shift taking place in the little chapel. It was as though we were being bathed in some incredible positive radiation that gave me goose bumps that would not recede. The palms of my hands were continually sweating, and a feeling of undeniable love filled my heart that brought tears to my eyes. Everyone in the room knew something very powerful and miraculous had just happened that was beyond our understanding. God had certainly gotten my attention.
Kelly was called up to stand before Maria. He was a little nervous, but feeling the magic that had entered the room, he nobly walked up to the altar unassisted. Through Maria, Christ placed his hands on Kelly’s head while announcing that he was wrapping his purple robe of love around him and that the healing had now begun. He stated that He had placed three lights of healing into Kelly’s heart that would be made evident to us within the week. Kelly walked back and whispered to me, “Wow, Dad, I really felt God’s hands on my head.”
Barb and I were each called individually, blessed, and given our gifts. I was told that I was to be an apostle of God and would be spreading the message of God’s love. It was said that I had faith as big as a mountain and that I was to be the pillar of strength
for my family and Kelly’s healing. Barb was given the gifts of unconditional faith and was told she was to be an instrument of God’s healing powers. Others were called up and given their gifts. Following the last person to receive their gifts, all were called up to stand in front of the altar. Maria then closed her eyes and dipped flowers into holy water and blessed us all. She then gave each one of us a bloom, with instructions to take them home and keep them next to our bed. Kelly was instructed to put his under his pillow for a week.
After this benediction, Maria sat back down and relaxed into her chair. In a few moments her whole body jolted into a severe spasm lasting only a few seconds; then she slumped quietly into her chair and was very still. In a moment she seemed to regain her composure and you could tell that Maria was back.
Everyone was given a glass of holy water to drink, and the experience was discussed. There was now an excited and animated energy in the room and despite the language barrier you could tell something very wonderful and extraordinary had just taken place. Through interpretation we found out that the ladies were very confident that Kelly’s healing would take place, but not without our help. We were told we needed to attend seven more Sunday services for the healing to become complete. They said the Lord would provide the means for our stay to be possible. Marta the other woman said that we all have lived previous lives before and that Kelly’s life this time around was to bring people closer to God with the miracle of his healing. His healing would be known across the land, forever spreading the message of what faith in God can do. We were told to listen very closely to what Kelly had to say; the hand of God had now touched him.
The ladies closed the service with more hymns that were sung in their local Spanish dialect. Most of the locals joined in, as well as one other little voice: Kelly was singing right in tune with them IN PERFECT FLUENT SPANISH. Kelly did not know Spanish, much less a local dialect, and certainly did not know the ancient hymn. But sing he did! It was a miracle. Gracias a Dios (Thanks be to God).
We were given some of the promised herb called golendrina that was to be used to make a healing tea as well as a poultice for Kelly’s head. Dona Nieves collected this herb herself, high in the Sierra Mountains. Many years ago, an old Mexican shaman had shared with her the power of this herb and where to collect it. She said that it has helped many people in different ways. We were to make a tea and give it to Kelly three times a day orally as well as a poultice for his head three times a day. We were also asked to return to the chapel on Friday when some spiritual doctors would be arriving who would want to see Kelly.
We left the chapel that morning awe-struck, trembling, and crying tears of joy. The experience left us feeling highly exhilarated; yet drained at the same time. Something happened in there that was very real and quite powerful. We knew at that moment when Kelly sang in Spanish, God wanted us to stay in this little Mexican village. We also knew we had some very serious decisions to make immediately.
Kelly was still on anti-seizure medication, as well as Prednisone and was scheduled in a few days for more radiation back at Children’s Hospital. This was a life and death decision to make for our son that could drastically affect the days and months left of his short life. The radiation schedule, which was palliative, would only slow down the rapid growth of the tumor, not cure him. We could hold off on this for a while and see what the next few weeks would bring.
Our biggest concern was taking Kelly off his seizure medication and the Prednisone. My wife who was in the medical field at the time was very concerned about the medical implications of taking him off his medication in this remote little village so far from a hospital. She decided it would be best to slowly taper what medications we had left until they were gone. The very best (and worst) of modern medicine had failed our son. There was nothing more the medical community could realistically offer him. We were very scared and uncertain but we put our faith in God and decided to stay at least until Friday so we could meet with the spiritual doctors. This would also afford us the time to discover what three lights of healing would be presented to us. We believed that the spirit of God had touched us, and He would continue to guide us on this new journey.
THE THREE LIGHTS
My nephew’s father said that we were welcome to stay at their beach house as long as we wanted to (mi casa/su casa: my house, your house). With that kind offer we unpacked our bags and went into the town of Ensenada to shop for supplies and find what God wanted us to find. We felt so connected and knew we would be guided to our three healing lights spoken of in the Sunday service. My wife’s and my gut feelings were together on this and insights were becoming clearer and seemingly obvious.
While shopping for food, we came upon a natural health food store to which we were instinctively drawn. Once inside we discovered the store was also a holistic clinic owned and run by a medical doctor turned nutritionist/herbalist. He was also a certified macrobiotic consultant. Natcho, as we learned to call him, was an endearing man with a warm smile, penetrating blue eyes and who spoke excellent English. We soon found ourselves telling him the whole story of Kelly’s illness from diagnosis, to the present moment. He was very excited about the possibility of being able to help Kelly with a macrobiotic diet. He prescribed a disciplined diet of whole grains, brown rice, seaweed, tofu products and herbs. There were to be no sweets or any sugars at all, no fruits, fruit juices or any dairy products. This was a macrobiotic healing diet to cleanse the body of the deadly residues and toxins from radiation, drugs, and chemotherapy. He also alleged that this diet could reduce existing tumor mass and mitigate further tumor growth.
We all decided to go on the diet and bought bags of macrobiotic vittles, spices and soybean product milk. Kelly was not too excited about the prospect of eating all this weird stuff (especially eating seaweed everyday), but it beat going back to the hospital and he accepted the idea very bravely. This was the first light of healing brought before us, just one day following the service.
I will have to admit I thought the food was disgusting and craved a nice juicy cheeseburger, but it was one for all and all for one. We did it together as a family, and we became quite resourceful with the limited allowable foodstuffs. The food had to be prepared in a specific way, and it soon just became part of our normal activities.
A few days following our initial visit, we returned for more macrobiotic stuff and Natcho introduced us to Jon, an American acupuncturist that had just started a free (or pay if you can) clinic above Natcho’s store. We brought Kelly in to see Jon, who found Kelly’s vital energies to be way out of balance and discovered many almost untouchable parts of his body. We knew of these spots under each armpit, and the bottom of his feet, for quite awhile and had associated them with his overtaxed lymph system. We could not pick him up under his arms without pain; he could not even walk barefoot on the beach, and he was still very weak most of the time.
Jon thought that together with Natcho’s diet and visits twice a week for acupuncture that Kelly’s vital energies could be restored, which would aid in his recovery. Jon said he had to consult with Sen Say, an old Japanese acupuncture master and mentor in San Diego. He did not feel qualified to prescribe the more precise treatments required for this difficult case. Until Jon could speak with Sen Say, he began initial treatments immediately on Kelly with the needles. Kelly relaxed and went with the flow saying: “Heck, dad, these needles ain’t nothing. I can’t feel a thing!” Thus we found our second light of healing as easy as the first.
For the next few days we relaxed on the beach, enjoying our newfound solitude and experimenting with our macrobiotic diet. On Friday we went again to the chapel to meet with the doctors that we were told would be coming. Dona Nieves greeted us and going through the same preliminary rituals we were seated this time in the back of the chapel. In the back there was positioned one single cot and a hardback chair, plus a single candle burning, as well as some incense. Fewer people were in attendance than there were on Sunday, but Dona Nieves, Maria, and Marta were still running the show. As Dona Nieves sprayed the pungent oil about and prayed, Maria seated herself in the hardback chair next to the cot. We were instructed to put our hands in our lap; palms upward, close our eyes, and pray.
Maria started her loud moaning and strange deep breathing that whistled eerily through her missing teeth. After a few moments, Maria stood up and in a different voice introduced herself as Emilio Pielroja from the tribe of David. He then proclaimed that he was a gifted surgeon that had come to operate on this child in the name of Jesus Christ. Wow...so this was the doctor we came to see! I thought we were going to see some in the flesh doctors with spirituality, not doctors in the spirit. This seemed very bizarre to say the least, but everything else had fallen into place thus far. We had to see it the rest of the way through.
This spirit doctor (through Maria) called Kelly up to stand in front of her. Maria then took a bunch of tied herbs and brushed them on Kelly’s head and body. Praying all the while she then brushed the floor in a wide circle around Kelly and then deposited the herbs into an old coffee can of holy water. Grabbing an egg from a bowl full of fresh eggs on the table, Maria made the sign of the cross with it on Kelly’s forehead at the tumor site. She then placed this egg in the coffee can with the herbs. More eggs are removed and one at a time they are rubbed on the back of his head, the chest, and every joint of the body. These eggs were then deposited into the can of holy water as well.
The eggs, we are told, are supposed to pull out the sickness. Maria then stated she would have to perform surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. I grab my wife’s hand as we gasped together under our breath at this unusual admonition. Kelly seemed very relaxed and compliant with the situation. There was no evidence of scalpels or knives in Maria’s hands so we relaxed (a little) and continued to observe and pray for strength.
Maria recited a prayer and then gave Kelly an injection of anesthetic (in pantomime, of course) into his arm. She then pretended to cut open the top and back of Kelly’s head with some invisible tool. She methodically checked around the incision areas with her fingers, diagnosing the situation. With a look of acknowledgment on her face, she proclaimed that through the power of Christ this child shall be healed. She then grabbed Kelly’s young head very compassionately with both gnarled old hands. Placing her ancient lips against his forehead, she began long slow sucking sounds. She increased her fervor and began sucking madly as if vacuuming out his entire brain. Turning Kelly slowly around, she then repeats this procedure on the back of his head.
Appearing somewhat shaken, Maria stepped back from Kelly for a few moments, regained her composure and asked for the coffee can of holy water with the eggs and herbs. She also requests for a glass of fresh holy water, which Dona Nieves provided for her. Maria takes a few small sips of the fresh holy water. After swishing it around in her mouth for a few moments, she spits out copious amounts of a white foamy yet slimy substance into the can. It reminded me of a melting marshmallow that slowly falls from a stick and into the campfire. She performed this spitting procedure several times, always accompanied with head shaking and a grimace of distaste stamped upon her face.
The can was then set on the vacant front pew. Pointing her finger at the can in dramatic gestures, she cautioned us strongly that the evil, the sickness, was in the can and that we should stay away from it, “Que Muy Malo!” (Very bad) she screamed. Within seconds there were flies swarming all over the can. It was disgusting! The Dona then reprised us once again, saying that the evil was attracting the flies and to stay away. The doctor then announced (through Maria) that we were to come back as many Fridays at it took until he (the doctor) felt the child had recovered fully from this surgery.
While Kelly was still with Maria (and the doctor), my wife, Barb, was called up to assist. Barb was given a small plastic medicine cup and was instructed to stand close to Kelly. Then Maria, chanting with her eyes still closed, pulled something from the air above her head. She then placed this invisible something into the cup in Barb’s hand. Barb was told there were twelve pills placed into the cup, six white and six purple; the white ones were to be taken with water at 6a.m. every morning and the purple were to be taken each night at bedtime. Every time a pill was given, we were to say a prayer of thanks for God’s healing and profess our love for God. The doctor also stated that he would come at 5 a.m. every morning while we were sleeping. At that time he would dress the wound and change the bandages as well as bless each and every one of us. Maria then sat down on the hardback chair, shook violently a few seconds, then after a slight pause, her small frame slumped quietly and was still.
In a few moments Maria stiffened, stood up and in a completely different voice and mannerisms, she spoke again. A Doctor Martine had come through her this time. She (he) checked over Kelly quickly and rather brusquely. He then said to please follow any given instructions to the letter and everything would be fine; “Next patient please.” She then proceeded to take care of the many ailments of the people in the chapel. When she was finally through with the last local seeking help, Maria fell back into her chair looking totally exhausted. Suddenly, she jerked violently and opened her eyes. Then standing up as if waking up from a long restful nap, she smiled and belched loudly in a very nonplused manner. Dousing herself with oil of balsam and acting like she had just arrived, she yawned and said she would see us on Sunday. We hugged her warmly and left feeling dazed and confused.
What the hell had we just gone through? I am a rational man but I was clueless to what had just happened in there. You could sense, feel and hear the different personalities that emanated from Maria. It completely blew me away- my senses were reeling. Was this some bizarre cult? Were we being taken in somehow and not know it? Whatever it was, it did not matter. Bottom line…we all felt so loved. It felt so right and God help us, it felt so damn good to have hope again.
We were instructed to bring only flowers and our faith with us to the service, nothing more. We offered to pay the bus fare for the long ride Maria and Marta had to take, but we were refused. Nothing was asked of us except to keep our faith strong. Unconditional love costs nothing, and these people wanted nothing more than for us to allow them to do God’s work and help heal his children. We had everything to gain. We rejoiced in our great fortune and walked home together hand in hand smiling real smiles for the first time in months. We had found the third light in these spiritual doctors and found that it was good.
Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe it.
In the weeks that followed, we went to more Friday and Sunday services at the Dona’s chapel. Many wonderful, strange, and miraculous things happened at those services and many were thankful. We received more spiritual medication and advice that we followed to the letter. My faith was strong, but some nights I would feel like an utter lunatic as I asked my child to pick up these invisible pills in an empty plastic cup. My faith always returned although, when Kelly would very casually pick the right color pill and would swallow it. Not only could he see the pills, he could feel them as he swallowed them. We continued with the acupuncture twice a week and maintained (as hard as it was) a strict macrobiotic diet. We slowly tapered Kelly off his tangible medications without incident, seizures, or problems.
In a strange quirk of coincidence, the acupuncturist placed the needles in the very same locations where Maria anointed Kelly with the sign of the cross on the Friday healing services. The acupuncturist also prescribed that we wrap a poultice of whole-wheat flour, taro root powder, fresh gingerroot and water around his head continuously. This was accomplished with a large bandanna he would wore on his head night and day. It was supposed to remove the heat of the tumor and reduce its size. When it dried out we changed it; it seemed to dry out very rapidly. In time we noticed that it required less frequent changing, as it was no longer drying out so fast.
Accompanying this change, we noticed Kelly was feeling better with a greater energy level. We could pick him up under his arms, and he would experience no pain. Kelly was out in the ocean on his boogie board and running on the beach barefoot, unheard of just a few short weeks ago. Something was definitely happening; our cautious optimism was turning into a real hope for the future. Hallelujah! It was a miracle.
On the sixth Sunday of our stay in Maniadera, we went to the little chapel with Kelly for the last time. We were told our son was healed, his tumor was gone and that we should go back to Minnesota to our material doctors and show to them what faith in God can do. They declared that our strong faith had healed our son and that his healing would be known all across the land. Gracias a Dios.
Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced…even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it
We returned to the United States and made plane reservations to fly home to Minnesota with a miracle in our pocket and hope in our hearts. Our major concern was Kelly’s health and the continuation of methods of treatment that we had begun. God had given us a second chance; we wanted to maintain the status quo and promote further healing.
Before flying home and meeting with Kelly’s doctors, we found a small house to rent in San Diego. We thought it to best to stay in the San Diego area where Kelly’s acupuncturist was located to continue on with his protocol. We would still be near Mexico and be able to travel there for occasional church services to help sustain us in our faith. Our plan was to quickly return home to meet with Kelly’s docs, and then return to California. We believed that his tumor was gone, but we needed to get the MRI done to substantiate the healing to the world.
The rental home we found was actually in Kensington, a quiet suburb of San Diego. We moved in immediately with only a few sticks of borrowed furniture. We still had a few days before our departure so we had the opportunity to accompany friends to a retreat area nearby in the Madre Grande Sanctuary Park. It was August 17, allegedly a very significant day in the cosmos where a once in a millennium planetary alignment was to take place. “New Agers” called this prophetic day the harmonic convergence, a day where simultaneously here and in places all around the globe people were gathering together to celebrate the birth of the Age of Aquarius. A new age, one hopefully filled with harmony and understanding, enlightenment, planetary healing and world peace. What better group of people, what better day, to celebrate the gift of our son’s healing, our spiritual epiphany and our deep gratitude and love for God?
We participated in and experienced some wonderful things that day and evening. There were so many caring, loving people gathered in one place with so much shared belief in the power of love and healing. A large group of us participated in a rebirthing process that was very uplifting and energizing for us all. Afterwards, many people stayed behind to lay hands on Kelly and pray for his healing. Fully invigorated, we were now prepared to return home to face family, friends, and the medical community, with the news of our miracle.
Many people thought we had gone off the deep end or that we were somehow being taken advantage of. We were not crazy and we did not join some peculiar Mexican cult. We definitely had some incredible tales to tell, but crazy? No. The proof of Kelly’s miracle was so obvious to us and it soon would be obvious to the world.
We returned home and immediately were brought down to the mundane realities of our house, our pets, unpaid bills, questioning neighbors and a very weedy yard. We looked at it all and let it go, for it had no power over us; we were participating in a miracle, and nothing else mattered. Breaking free of the confines of our experiential calluses and cautious optimism, we dared to believe that victory was ours. We believed that God had fulfilled his promise and healed our son. Now we had to get the material proof from our material doctors, that our hopes had come true and that we could confirm and substantiate the reality of our miracle. Our next stop was Children’s Hospital¾and the oncology team.
and the Doctor takes the Fee
At Children’s Hospital we met with Kelly’s primary oncologist to request that an MRI scan be performed. With a raised eyebrow he asked why we wanted this test done when we knew that there was no hope of a remission. We briefly explained the alternative methods of healing that we had experienced and that Kelly’s condition had improved dramatically in so many ways. We wanted to know what exactly was happening. He said they would do the test, but cautioned us not to get our hopes up too much. The test was completed and the results were viewed and examined. It was revealed to us what we knew all along: there was no sign of the grapefruit size tumor that was evident six weeks earlier! All that was visible was a gray indentation in place of where the tumor had been. The side-by-side MRI scans that were taken months apart, spoke for themselves.
The oncologist suggested that possibly the early palliative radiation had done more than was thought possible. He also remarked that although he did not necessarily believe that our alternative methods of healing had produced these results, he did say: “I guess we all have a lot to learn”. After the doctor left the room, the attending nurse jumped up and down with ecstatic joy, hugging and kissing us as we all thanked God together. Words fail to express fully the supreme joy and exaltation that we felt at that moment. We walked down the halls and out the door of that hospital hand in hand literally kicking our heels up for joy. Victory was ours. Praise God!
Driving home that day from the hospital, we were all giddy with emotion and riding high with the hope and joy that filled our hearts. Soon I noticed that Kelly was looking out the window at all the cars in the rush hour traffic with a very serious almost sad look on his face. I said, “What’s wrong son? Why the long face?”
“Dad, I don’t understand why all those people aren’t looking over here at us, don’t they know a miracle has just happened?”
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle.
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.
St. Gilbert of Ensenada
On December 1st 1987 life as I knew it to be, ceased to exist. I watched helplessly as my nine year old son’s tired and cancer ravaged body slowly released his spirit. I saw his partially paralyzed face find its proper form and like the graceful arch of a feather his smile returned once more. His half slit eyes almost crusted closed now yawned wide open and dark slate turned to brilliant blue; like forget-me-nots floating in a pool of cream. In the split seconds of my half gasp the soft glow went out and blue faded again back to gray, and although I knew I just looked in to the eyes of God, I crumbled to floor and wept.
Something shifted within my soul that day that has never shifted back. I became a different me, a survivor emerged but I had no key. One door closed, but a new one did not swing open. Only the closed doors of uncertainty and nebulous refuge stood in front of me. No key, no clue to my future, my tomorrow was stolen from me and like a new born baby I cried to be held and rocked, hoping sleep would come forever.
When I first awoke at day’s next dawning denial brought me back to the harsh reality of life; I knew it was not an awful dream, my son had died; his lifeless body no longer on the couch, no death watch today…only the gray. Everything sounded so quiet or muffled to my ears, so much seemed strangely unfamiliar; a stranger in my own dream in a house not my own. How could this have happened? How can I possibly live without my son?
Many of us in this life will be faced with these same questions that have no answers and we struggle to survive. How we survive is different for us all. Not surviving sounds like an attractive option, but not a rational one. Like a newborn baby we are thrust into a new world, one we have to learn all over again.
I am now twenty-one years old in my grief as a bereaved parent and I feel compelled to tell you a little more of that journey that has this many years later brought me much peace. After my son died following a two year battle with cancer I fell into an abyss of despair, we had fought for so long to save his life with everything in our power. We had great physicians, surgeons, oncologists, great children’s hospital and great insurance, but they were not enough. They still could not save our son from his ultimate death to cancer. We took it a step beyond, a step in faith to heal our son which is detailed in my book “Letters To My Son, a journey through grief” which was published in 2002.
Publishing that book and making my grief 3-dimensional was a huge milestone in processing my grief and subsequently a spring board to a future I had never conceived of or envisioned. I had remortgaged our house to publish the book of my son’s life, his death, his healing, our miracle, our journey. A book that main stream publishers would not touch, so I self published. I transformed the most intimate details of a family’s worst tragedy into an inspirational source of healing for the bereaved. Of the 2500 copies that were printed, I have 250 left. My first attempt at writing a book and I am ready to fill another with the miracles and healing that have been brought into my life because of it.
When we knew our son was truly going to die, the Make-a-wish organization had agreed to send us to Hawaii for two weeks, and then return home for more palliative radiation. On our return from the Islands we traveled to Mexico for a day from the advice of a relative that we could locate some healing herbs to help our son’s recovery from the assaults of chemotherapy. My nephew lived in San Diego which is not far from the Mexican border. His family rented a beach house in a small fishing village called Maniadera, just south of Ensenada near the famous landmark “ La Bufadora” a natural seawater blowhole on the Pacific side of the Baja.
Their beach house was owned by local landlord whom lived close by. She was in her mid seventies, and held in high esteem in the village. It was she who collected the healing herb high in the mountains. When we met her she said she had a vision of our son coming to her for a healing and she asked us to come to a healing service held in a small chapel built behind her home. We decided to attend. We did not return home for almost two months and our son’s grapefruit size tumor completely disappeared. God had given us a second chance, we sold everything we had and moved to San Diego. Months after living in California, the cancer returned and our spirits broken we moved back to Minnesota where our son died in our arms in an almost empty rented apartment near our home and family.
Our only other child, our daughter Meagan was 6 years old when we lived in Mexico and when her brother Kelly had died. Through the years I have always told her that when the time was right I would take her back to Ensenada, back to that that little fishing village, to the little chapel where the miracle occurred so long ago. Boyfriends came and went, but the significant other in her life that would warrant the journey, that felt right, never appeared in her life until just a few years ago. She fell in love with a wonderful young man, the real deal, a genuine man with tenderness and depth of character. They had a child together, our grandchild and the light of our post loss lives and of course their new burgeoning lives together. It now felt like the right time to make our pilgrimage back to Mexico. We started to make plans.
To drive to Ensenada you have to drive through Tijuana and navigate the long coastal road several hours to get to Ensenada and then again an hour to Maniedera if we could even find it after 21 years. Driving your own car or a rental both are considered risky with the current instances of Banditos accosting tourists who attempt to make the drive. We saw an ad for a cruise ship that sailed to Ensenada, we booked it for the four of us early this spring for an October cruise that would at least bring us to Ensenada.
Before we left Minnesota, I envisioned what I wanted to happen once we were in Ensenada. I prayed that we would just get off the boat, walk up to a trustworthy English speaking Taxi cab driver and I would offer him a hundred bucks for four hours to take us to La Bufadora and on the way see if he could help us find the little chapel near Manieadera. I carefully tucked a crisp new one hundred dollar bill in the back of my wallet just for this purpose.
While on board the ship I asked about hiring a driver once we arrived in Ensenada. They did not recommend doing any touring that was not offered through their itineray, and discouraged us from doing so. If we wanted to pursue it on our own we were free to do so, but they were not responsible for our safety and we would have make the twenty minute walk into town to inquire.
We got off the boat prepared to walk into the center of town. We passed the many Carnival Cruide Line posted tour buses that people were cuing up to take the hour or so drive so drive to see the famous La Bufadora. We only had about a 5 hour window to find our chapel, so we started to walk quickly. Just past the last of the big tour buses sat a lonely white van with a small sign in the window, which simply stated :” Shuttle Service For Hire”. It appeared to be a brand new van despite the very faded “Tips accepted” sign (which was the reverse side of the shuttle for hire sign). I had walked by the van at first and then I retraced my steps to see if there was a driver inside, as I approached he got out of his van and asked me if I was looking to hire a Taxi.
I said that I was and that I wanted to go La Bufadora with my family, but want to do several hours of more personal sightseeing on the way. He smiled broadly and with a knowing wink in his eye and in perfect English said “how about four hours for a hundred bucks? I about fell over, but calmly said that would be fine, let’s do it. He brought out a little step stool to help us into the van, shut the double doors, sat back in the driver’s seat and he announced: Hi my name is Gilbert, where to first?
I explained that although we did want to travel to La Bufadora, as it is well worth the visit and a part of our nostalgic tour, but we really wanted to find the village of Maniadera above all else. Did he know of the village? He responded that although he was from Ensenada he had gone to school in Manieadara and knew how to get there. We talked more and I told him a little of our experience of 21 years ago and why we wanted to find the chapel and possibly find and walk the beach we had lived so long ago. He said much has changed in those many years and Maniadera has spread out in all directions but he thought he could get us near the beach area that we hoped to see.
I told him about the miracle healing that we had experienced and I had recalled the gentile older woman who owned the chapel and that her name was Doña Nieves but she was also known as Señora Fisher. His eyes lit up immediately and said “ I went to school with her son, I know where her house is and even possibly the chapel of which you speak, I heard she died about 8 years but her son may live there now. I am certain we can find it”.
Soon the smells, the geography started to take on a familiar quality, like glimpses of a recurring dream teasing at your body, mind, and soul. The olfactory senses being the strongest trigger see, to retrieve the deepest of memories, even those gained as a child, and my daughter was experiencing it big time. Every place on earth seems to have its own smell and flavor. Fishing docks, dead seaweed, ocean breeze, hints of raw sewage and blooming cacti brought us back to those long forgotten days almost immediately.
In my daughter’s hands she clutched an old shirt her brother had last worn when last we lived here and he was alive. She had surprised us by packing it in her purse for this purpose, if and when we found the chapel. A few wrong turns and a closed road later we found ourselves parked in front of the chapel that changed our life so many years before. We all got out of the van stunned that we had found it and it still looked the same. Soon a woman came out of the main house and I am sure was wondering why these four American tourists were standing so reverently and speechless in front her husband’s machine shed. St. Gilbert to the rescue again…through his interpretation he explained the story and why we were there.
The kind lady was the daughter in law of the late Señora fisher and she confirmed that the old woman had died. She also said that although the building was now her husband’s machine shed (with still very visible cross still on the peak on the roof ) it was indeed the little chapel that Senora Fisher had built for healing. We could not go inside but we were allowed to take some photos in front of the chapel. When through, we graciously thanked her and left.
We took a short walk to the beach and soon lost ourselves in quiet gratefulness, savoring so many memories that were flooding our being. We looked for the beach house where he had lived those few months, now more than two decades later. We knew from relatives that the house itself had burned to the ground less than a year after we had stayed there and had been built over again. It was difficult to ascertain where the exact spot was, but it made no difference we were there. We felt it.
We then took a very quiet ride to La Bufadora, and ate some delicious fish and shrimp tacos, sipped a cold Corona and we pondered our miracle as it was happening. Our angel, our friend St.Gilbert of Ensenada had certainly come through. We walked back to our van after our light repast and asked Gilbert to take us back to the town of Ensenada itself to seek its memories yet to be revealed.
On the drive back I told Gilbert I used to frequent a place back when we were here last, it was only a street vendor but they had the best tacitos I have ever had in my life, it was on the corner of Seis and Ruiz in a non-tourist part of town. Gilbert exclaimed with excitement “I was just there yesterday!! “ How do you know of the best kept secret of Ensenada? He took us right there. Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing had changed at all; my God it looked like the same place I had walked up to 21 years ago, and had the best taste treat of a lifetime. El Norteno was still open for business.
The store front was just a cubby hole with green and a white tiled counter housing the cook, the grill, a white chest refrigerator, a soda cooler, and the lady whom you paid. You’re ordered how many you wanted and when you were full you gave her the count of how many eaten and you paid up. It had not changed one iota in 21 twenty years. There just happened to be a local musician, leaning against his pick up serenading all who ordering and those who were eating. No place to sit, you stand and enjoy. The first bite of that little taco gave me a jolt of true reality. It seems the last of the 6 physical senses ameliorated with the other 5 I had already experienced and for a brief moment I was totally back to a life lived so long ago. I was swept away.
Paying for our nine tacos, one torta, and two Coke lights we left to find Gilbert waiting silently in the alley. I pulled that crisp one hundred dollar bill from my wallet, along with a few hundred pesos that we had left to give as a tip. I almost had to push it in his hands, as he seemed reluctant and embarrassed to even take it. We hugged warmly as I placed it in his hands, cupping them tightly and simply said thank you Gilbert, thank you so very much. He modestly responded: good memories I am sure you had, as well as some sad ones, Va con Dios my friends. His nodded his head with that same knowing wink he gave me four hours ago on the pier. He then disappeared from our lives as quickly as it had entered it. We were touched by an angel. St. Gilbert of Ensenada.
We returned home to middle October Minnesota bodies tanned, spirit filled, and somewhat in awe of the journey we had just taken. I walked my gardens around the farm which had obviously experienced a recent hard frost in our absence. Most of the leaves on the plants and flowers were a dark cucumber green and drooping loosely embossed on the still yielding firm stems. Soon I was surprised to find a batch of forget-me-nots seemingly unscathed from Jack Frosts touch and they stood defiant amongst the other browning flora and scattered leaves.
I had planted these plants as seedlings this spring, and although a spring blooming plant they had thrived but did not bloom this spring or summer, not at all…until now. In the center of the patch was one tall stem with the most brilliant tiny blue flowers I have ever seen, like staring into my son’s eyes. I felt warm all over with an indescribable blast of God tingles and I heard Kelly clearly say to me, “you have not forgotten me, I will forget you not”.
Love never dies
Mitch Carmody 10/27/08
Meg and Kelly on the beach near Ensenada - summer 1987