You would never immediately notice when Raul entered a room. There was nothing flashy about him. If you had noticed him you might have thought he was a teacher or somebody's good looking uncle. He was that and he was so much more.
He was the embodiment of his beliefs. His wife and soulmate Susana shared that he would take pain pills before he would lead meetings. He wanted the meetings to be focused on skills needed for members of the immigrant Latino community to become involved and empowered. He didn't want his pain to detract from that focus. He'd much rather work from humor, love, and the belief that there were always options for making life better.
The room we were in was large by hospital standards. The hospital staff had placed Raul there because it was at the end of the hall and there were visitors that kept coming, and coming, and coming. One by one they would talk to Raul. His children arrived from Mexico and there was a silent exodus from the room that they might have some time with their father.
Throughout the evening there were some tears, but mostly silence. A measured, pained silence - the sort that is almost comforting because all understand what is being shared. And all understand the inevitable outcome.
Every once in a while those gathered would share with each other something of the gifts he had shared. "Me dijo, hay opciones" - "He told me there are options". "Yes, options, options, there are always options". "He was patient". "His sense of humor". "He was determined". He was committed to public education; even to the end. He donated his body to UCLA rather than USC since the former is a public school.
At one point last night, a woman in a skinny-strapped green dress asked those assembled if we might pray. There was an almost audible nodding of heads and then without a word a circle was formed. Words of conviction and deep love were shared and at the conclusion of the circle there was a call to acknowledge his life and his work by applause.
In that hospital room, and resounding down the hall, was the applause that begins at a slow pace, finding its point of unity, gradually grows louder as the sound more and more finds its center, and then becomes more rapid as an expression of resounding commitment to a common goal. It was recognition that Raul's presence will continue to be a part of the work to be done.
There will be a celebration of Raul's life and his work this coming Friday, December 2nd at 6 p.m. at the Villa Parke Community Center.
image - Pocho1 - https://www.facebook.com/pocho1.fotography