Friday, January 16, 2009

Chapter 18


The next two days were a blur of voices, sounds and smells, but mostly pain. Chris drifted in and out of consciousness. He became aware that he was in the home of the Segovia family in San Marcos, a village at the base of the mountain. The woman who had found him, and who had been caring for him, was named Concha, short for Concepcion. She was the sister of Mr. Segovia. She was especially kind to him and he developed a fondness for her. When they transferred him to the hospital in Guatemala City, he asked her to go with him. He was surprised when she agreed.

For a man who was used to action and activity, the hospital stay was extremely boring and tedious. His burns were healing quickly, thanks to the herbs Concha had applied the first two days, and his crushed foot turned out to only be a sprain. But nothing could be done about his eyes. The doctors could not find any physical damage and could only surmise that the shock from the lightning must have caused the blindness. In addition, he was still confused and had problems with his short-term memory. He couldn’t remember much about the last day on the mountain. At least what he did remember was very spotty. And try as he might, he couldn’t remember how to get to the cave. But that was just as well. He had been told not to go back, and now he had no intention of trying.

He did remember all the details of his Near Death Experience. A number of years earlier he had read an account of a man who had an NDE, and looking back he realized that his trip to the world of the dead had been almost identical. But he was reluctant to mention this to anyone. They might think he was crazy. He hadn’t even mentioned it to Concha.

Lately, he had come to rely on her for many things, especially sight. Blindness was especially hard for him as he had always been a visual person. Now that he couldn’t see, he would ask her to describe all the sights and events going on around him. She came every day and sat with him in his room at the hospital. He had arranged a hotel room for her that was only a block from the hospital. She would often bring him lunch. The hospital food left a lot to be desired. Through their conversations they got to know each other quite well.

Chris learned that Concha had recently quit her job as a teacher at a private school in Guatemala City, and had gone to visit her brother in San Marcos for several months. That is how she happened to be there when she found Chris. She and her friend had seen the small fire on the ridge after the storm and decided to climb up and investigate.

Concha had been trained as an elementary teacher and had completed her university course fourteen years earlier in 1996. Chris asked her why she hadn’t married. She replied that she had been engaged, but her fiancĂ© had been an idealistic student who got involved with the insurrection and civil war in Guatemala. He disappeared in 1994 and she hadn’t heard from him since. That was sixteen years ago. She waited a long time for him to return but he never did. She assumed that the Guatemalan army had killed him.

Concha arranged for Chris’ things to be brought from the hotel in Rio Dulce where he and John had originally been staying. Chris identified John’s things and arranged for Concha to ship them to John’s home address in Utah.

He still hadn’t told John’s attorney about his death and wasn’t sure how to approach it. As far as he knew, John didn’t have any family to notify. Finally he found someone who could write in English and dictated a letter to the attorney. He explained that while they had been up on the mountain an earthquake had struck. They had been separated and in the ensuing thunderstorm Chris had been struck by lightning and had lost his sight, as well as his memory of the event. He explained that he hadn’t seen or heard from John since. He assumed that John had been killed as none of the locals had seen him or found his body.

He didn’t dare to tell him the whole story. He was sure he would try and get him to show them where the cave was located. He had no intention of going back. He had been instructed not to.

During the long hours Concha would often read to him. He especially liked to have her read from the Book of Mormon. He had originally only read the book looking for clues about the location of the treasure cave. That is what John had instructed him to do. But in the process he had come to appreciate the spiritual messages he found in the book. And since his NDE he had become much more serious and aware of spiritual things, and the messages in the book brought him great comfort. Fortunately he had kept John’s Spanish Book of Mormon because Concha didn’t read English.

Concha was at first reluctant to read from the book. She had heard rumors about the Mormons and didn’t want to be tainted with an evil book. After all, she was a good Catholic. But Chris persisted and finally she began reading for him. After several days of this, she began to look forward to their reading time together. She admitted that she had been wrong in her hasty judgment of the book.

Chris had felt from the start that Concha was the woman he had been told to marry. But in his disabled condition he found it hard to think anyone would want to marry him. But he finally got up the courage by reminding himself that he had received a divine mandate.

That particular day Concha was reading from First Nephi; the part where Lehi asked his sons to go back to Jerusalem to get wives from the family of Ismael. Chris thought that this would be a good time to bring up the subject.

“You know Concha, I’ve been thinking that I ought to get married myself---would you marry me?”

Instead of being surprised by the abruptness of this proposal, Concha acted like she might have been expecting it. But being a natural tease, she answered,

“Why would I want to marry you? You couldn’t even support me. What would we do for food, sit out on the street and beg?”

Chris was taken aback by her reply, but trying to salvage his pride, he explained that he had savings back in the states to live off of, and that he would also be eligible for full disability benefits now that he was blind. That would allow them to live quite comfortably. Besides, if she were Mrs. Chris Castillo she could go and live in the United States. She had earlier told him that this was one of her lifelong dreams.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it. Besides I need to talk to my father and get his advice.” Now he knew she was only stalling. While he had been recovering at the Segovia home he had overheard them say that the father had died a number of years back. So now he felt better. He knew she would say yes.

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