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When Sean and I arrived at Tío Johnny’s viewing and Rosary I noticed a few things immediately:
- The open casket (1992 LA Marathon finish line photo propped inside it) surrounded by collages of photos and flowers
- The low murmur of music and a choir singing
- The absence of my father
The second two were odd. The rosary had not begun yet and the first hour was just a viewing for the family. A good number of tía Susana’s side of the family were already seated. The Mosqueda side was on the road.
I figured dad was at the church, cure but he was rehearsing the music for the services with friends/family members. That’s why I heard faint music.
I walked toward the area the music was coming from, treatment hoping to find an exit to a rehearsal room nearby. I didn’t find anything and was confused. Lupe (old family friend, tía Susana’s sister) noticed and filled me in on the music.
“Mi papá. Is he practicing over there?”
“No, mija! That’s us… it’s a recording.” She pointed to a grey boom box I had missed initially. “Javier had a recording of us singing and put it on a CD. Your tío John was the one conducting the group.”
And dad was surely playing guitar or bass in the background.
It all made sense. The voices sounded very young. And dad still had not shown. And tío John had made his presence felt at the viewing and rosary in more ways than one.
When dad arrived a little later, he set up near the boom box. Danny joined him. Lori did too. Without a question, they would be backing up dad as we usually do in these situations. Los Marcianos — the folks from the youth group/band dad, tío Johnny, tía Susana and several others were part of in the 70s-80s — joined in as well.
I stayed in the pews with Sean, Adrian, and my grandparents thinking I wouldn’t be able to sing for tío Johnny because of my cold. I felt sad about it, but knew that I’d already sung for him on Tuesday night. When we arrived at the house in San Gabriel, my aunts were singing for tío John hoping he could hear us. I joined in, especially when dad arrived and they brought out a guitar.
On Tuesday I was okay, by Friday I was much worse. Mom asked me why I wasn’t lining up with the choir. I mentioned being sick. Two minutes later, I was standing next to Lori and asking around for cough drops. I couldn’t stay away. I had to sing as best I could and I needed to be near my dad and siblings.
I sang with my dad, Danny, Lori and over a dozen Marcianos who knew and loved tío Johnny since he was a teen. The next morning during the funeral Mass and burial at the cemetery, we did the same. This time, Adrian joined the group on drums; Danny played tío Johnny’s newest guitar. Despite no formal rehearsals, the priest complimented the choir as the best he had ever heard at a funeral.
I had the songs we sang for tío Johnny stuck in my head for more than a week. I must have sang “Entre Tus Manos” at least half a dozen times. “Amor Eterno” twice; tears both times, of course. “Pescador de Hombres” three times. “Felicidad” — a new one for me — four times. “Vaso Nuevo” at least twice. There were a few Beatles songs and a couple of English hymns, but “Entre Tus Manos” stuck the most. It also makes me the most emotional… It’s the last two lines.
Entre Tus manos
Está mi vida, Señor
Entre Tus manos
Pongo mi existir
Hay que morir para vivir
Entre Tus manos confío me ser
Si el grano de trigo no muere
Si no muere solo quedará,
Pero si muere en abundancia dará
Un fruto eterno que no morirá.
I know this grain of wheat is still giving abundant fruit. I can hear it and will sing along to it with my family.
“In your hands” loose translation:
In your hands / Is my life, Lord / In your hands / I place my being / One must die to live / In your hands I entrust my life
If the grain of wheat does not die / If it does not die, it will remain alone / But if it dies, it will give in abundance / An eternal fruit that will not die.]
Group photo borrowed from Lupe P.