THE CHILD KING
In 1995, a woman came to the door asking for holy water for a little neighbor boy who had died. Monica, the neighbor who had come for the water, said that the family was poor and could not afford a service in the Church. Frustrated with the explanation, I asked to follow her to the house where the young boy lay waiting, while his father and older brother were preparing his grave. Upon arrival at the one room house built out of stick and adobe, I met Gloria, the mother. She greeted me with a nursing baby in her arms. She shared that her family had moved to Quecheltenango from an outlying village two years ago. They were hopeful that by moving, they could offer their five children a better life. Tomas, the three-year-old, and his brother had been playing on the rocks when Tomas had been stung by a scorpion.
His parents had immediately taken Tomas to the clinic where he received a serum shot to counter the poison of the scorpion. He was not doing well, so the doctor gave him another shot the following day. Despite everyone’s efforts to save Tomas, the poison proved too powerful for the little boy. Gloria invited me into her house to partake in the meal they had prepared for the family and friends who had gathered to pray. As I entered the crowded space, I observed Tomas laying in his blue casket elevated on a table just large enough to support it. Around the table wild flowers and various candles were placed. I walked the few steps from the door to where Tomas lay. I saw that his body was wrapped in a light blue, shiny cloak. I stood at the foot of his little casket gazing at this face. To my astonishment, I saw placed upon the head of Tomas, a gold paper crown that his sisters and brother had made for him. In awe, I stared at the little child king.
I stayed the day with the family and friends of Tomas, saying good-bye to the child king (El Niño Rey). I shared many tears that day with a family that had invited me to partake in their life. I know that the fall is a time to offer thanks and be hopeful. I also know that it is a time to remember, a time to recall the tears that have fallen from my eyes and the eyes of those I hold close to my heart. There are tears of great joy, tears of pain, tears of incredible laughter, tears of anxiety, tears of separation and tears of gathering. The tears I shed for Tomas are tears of promise.
I promise that I will always remember that every child is a king.
Fr. Matt Foley, Director of El Niño Rey