In Time to Say Goodbye

Ramon Mendez was a farmer. He worked on Coastside flower farms for nearly 20 years, tending mainly dahlias and los perritos, snapdragons. Evven after cancer made it impossible for him to continue working, he was able to tend a small garden on the Pescadero ranch where he and his family lived. He planted cilantro, tomatoes, chiles. He liked to cook, especially menudo. ” Mucho el menudo,” said his wife, Elvira Zavala-Mendez, with a sad smile. His youngest son, Miguel-Angel, said, ” He would eat only his own menudo.”

The COC’s Lorena Galindo-Perez met Mr. Mendez in the mid-1980s, when she helped him apply for legal residency through the amnesty program. He continued to work on Coastside ranches, returning to Cueramaro, Guanajuanto, Mexico, to visit his family every two year. In 2000, his wife, Elvira; daughter, Lucia; and youngest son, Miguel-Angel, immigrated to the Coastside. But the eldest son, Alvaro, who was 21 at the time was no linger eligible to immigrate as a dependent.

After an accident at work nearly three years ago, Mr. Mendez sought the healing services of los sobradores, but when his health worsened, they encouraged him to see a medical doctor. By then, though, his newly diagnosed cancer had metastasized.

When Mr. Mendez became ill, he was still in the years-long process of petitioning to bring Alvaro to the United States with the COC’s assistance. But by mid-June, Mr. Mendez’s health worsened dramatically; this time his request was different.

He told Lorena, “The last thing I would love for you to do for me is to see if you can bring my son to see me because I only have a few weeks of life. I want to see my son for the last time.” Lorena filed that required paperwork with the U.S immigration officials, including providing a doctor’s letter.

A week later, June 21, Alvaro flew to California on a ticket the COC purchased. He arrived at 8:30 p.m. at his father’s bedside, surrounded by the rest of the family. Mr. Mendez had not spoken for 24 hours before Alvaro arrived and that morning could no longer move the lower half of his body. “When Alvaro arrived, he said, ‘ I’m here, Papa. I’m here'” said Mrs. Mendez, tears forming. “His last words were , ‘Hold me, Hold me.’ Alvaro put his hand at the back of his neck – that’s when he passed away.” Mr. Mendez died 20 minutes after Alvaro arrived.

Avaro was able to stay a week, and the family again sought the assistance of the COC to send Mr. Mendez’s body back to Mexico with Alvaro. Alvaro’s petition for immigration was terminated with Mr. Mendez’s death. Now Mrs. Mendez will apply for naturalization and re-initiate the long process to bring Alvaro to the United States – this time for good.

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