Healed by my Abuelita (grandmother) Angel

Healed by my Abuelita (grandmother) Angel

Sarah Salinas, Isidoro Pesach and Moises Paz on Rosh Hashanah


As I finished blowing the Shofar (rams horn), he awoke from his coma, looked as his startled wife sitting by his death bed, looked me in the eyes and asked… Do you know Sara Salinas? Sara Salinas was my grandmother I said, she passed away 18 years ago. Who are you and why do you ask of my abuelita (grandmother) from your death bed?


It was my 24th Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a time to commune with G-d reflect on one's actions and dedicate ourselves to doing good in the coming year. Morning prayers were complete, the hundreds of worshippers had filed out, the lunch had been delicious and my thoughts were on my girl.  I couldn't wait to take a walk, reflect on good deeds for the coming year and maybe take a nap.  


It was a peaceful relaxed afternoon when Rabbi Yonah asked me for a favor that I would not be able to refuse. His request was that I would walk the six or seven miles to Mercy Hospital in downtown San Diego. There were eight maybe more Jews in the hospital that had not been able to attend synagogue and hear the Shofar (the ritual rams horn blown during the high holidays). My job was to visit with each Jew spending the Holy Days at Mercy Hospital and blow Shofar for them. He assured me that it would lift their spirits and inspire their souls at this holiday season. He had made arrangements with the head Nun at Mercy Hospital, two days ago, conned his brother Ruby to join me and he would pick us up after sunset so we would not have to walk back.


How could I turn down such a request especially with my girl in earshot ? She would be impressed by the mitzvah (good deed) and, ok it was a great mitzvah to start the New Year. Ruby and I took a drink, packed the Shofar and started our walk to downtown San Diego. We calculated we had time for a leisurely walk on a hot day and off we went. A September walk down El Cajon Boulevard, past the car dealerships, video shops, busy traffic and those taking lunch at the Jewish style deli. A short cut through the Sears parking lot and we finally made it to Mercy Hospital, a surprisingly quick seven mile walk to the Catholic hospital. 


The nun, or was it a sister, greeted us as we walked in, she had been expecting us. She undoubtedly recognized the kipot (Jewish prayer caps) and Rabbi Yona’s pre Rosh Hashanah arrangements had included us.  She gave us a list of Jewish patients and off we went, starting at the top floors we worked out way down.

“Hello, we are here from Chabbad, came to wish you a Happy New Year, today is Rosh Hashanah” we would say. “Oh it is, we were unaware, thank you so much for coming to greet us, yes we would love to hear the Shofar, hopefully it will help” they would answer. Some realized it was Rosh Hashanah others did not.  

We opened the door to one room, the lights were out and the room was dark. We apologized and started to back out. Come in, come in said the ladies voice.  A lovely and kind well dressed lady. “He has not moved in days” she said as she shrugged her shoulders and gave us a sad smile.  We explained that we here to wish her and her husband a good New Year. “Today is Rosh Hashanah?” she asked, “being in the hospital so long I was unaware, we missed being in synagogue this year, we always go” she said.  I offered to blow Shofar for her and her husband, she shrugged, “it won’t make a difference and if you like you can blow Shofar for him and I would like to hear it”.  Standing at the foot of the bed I blew Shofar as I had in the other rooms. The man open his eyes, he looked at me and then at his wife. “Open the curtains” he said, it’s so dark in here”.  Ruby and I looked at each other and had to giggle. She rushed and opened the curtains, “raise the bed, sit me up he grunted”, she quickly complied. He looked me in the eyes, I had not said a word, “do you know Sarah Salinas ?” he said. I looked at him in amazement, “Sarah Salinas is my grandmother who passed away a long time ago” I replied.  He continued, “I heard a noise, looked at the foot of the bed and there was Sarah Salinas, standing where you are now, telling me, get up lazy, it’s time for you to get up. “I opened my eyes and saw someone standing there blowing Shofar, I asked my wife to open the curtains and saw it was you”.  “Who are you and how do you know Sarah Salinas” I asked. “As a child, my mother was dry and could not breast feed me. She asked Sarah, a neighbor in the same apartment building in Mexico City, who had just had a child to breast feed me. Sarah graciously agreed to do so; she was truly an angel and did good for everyone who needed it. I would go to her house and be breast fed till I was three years old, after that I would just go and visit and play with her daughters.” Both of us amazed he said he knew that Sara had passed away years ago and asked about my mother. Sofia I replied, “Vicky you mean, she had her name changed when she was sick as a child” he said. Yes that is her, I knew the story, and my mother went by two names, officially her name was Sofia and she was known as Vicky to those who knew her from Mexico. As a child, my mother Sofia had taken ill, the doctors could not determine her illness and gave up on her, a few days to live they said.  The Rabbi decided that, in the old Sephardic Jewish tradition, to change her name would change her mazal, her luck and her fortune. They changed her name to Chaya, Life, or Victoria (victory) in Spanish, they called her Vicky. As the story goes she woke up the next morning and headed off to play. I never knew why she went by Sofia in the United States, perhaps for legal matters. To add even more confusion, she kept her Hebrew name as Simcha, joy in English, and that was the name passed on to a granddaughter who everyone believed would never be borne, but that is another story.  

By this time, Sunset had passed and Rosh Hashanah was now over. Isidoro Pesach was alert and his wife joyful. I called my mother, Sofia, and told her I was at the hospital with Isidoro Pesach, “Que hace alli “ What is he doing there she asked? I told her of his illness, how he had come to San Diego from Mexico seeking medical treatment.  She responded by telling me how her mother, Sarah Salinas, had breast fed him as a child because his mother was dry. They had been childhood friends and have a close bond.  “Hay vamos, I’m calling my some friends and we are coming to see him right now” and she did. The whole gang of Spanish speaking Mexican Jewish women descended on Mercy Hospital, joyous, loud and shushed by the Nuns.  Ruby and I took our ride home with Rabbi Yonah and all seemed normal. As I reflected on the day and the evening I realized it was not “normal” but I did not speak of it for years.

A few months later I was in a head on collision, me on a motorcycle and the other in a large luxury car. During a leisurely Sunday ride in the desert, Nathan had sped by me going over 100 miles per hour. My mind drifter for a moment and the next thing I saw was a car veering into my lane, my BMW motor cycle crashed into the from end of the large Ford automobile, the lady startled in the driver’s seat. I saw what seemed like a slide show, my cycle hitting the car, then rolling in the sand, and getting up some 100 feet down the road. My passenger and I rolled in the desert sand and stood up. Her not a scratch, me very sore ankles and Nathan could not believe that we both stood up. The BMW crushed over 100 feet behind us. Everyone who saw or heard of the accident could not believe that we walked away from it.  A string of bad luck I told my mom, things were going poorly and the accident was just one more in the sequence. “get in the car, close the windows, and yell at the top of your lungs, leave and leave me alone. You will see how things will be better” she instructed. Laughing at her suggestion I did just as she said. I then thanked and asked my grandmother Sara Salinas to help guide me. I felt a sudden calm, and say what you will my mazal, my luck and my fortune changed.  The religious girl came back in my life and I continued to feel my grandmothers’ presence. Eventually I told the story to my new wife and it has become a popular request over the Shabbat (Friday night Sabbath dinner) table. To me it seems like a story that I would not believe if it had not happened to me, but I know it is true.

They tell me that Isidoro Pesach returned to Mexico City healthy and happy. He would tell anyone that would listen how Sarah Salinas returned to heal him in San Diego. He lived a long and healthy life; I never knew the nature of his illness. They tell me that Sara Salinas and I had an uncommon love relationship. I lived with her and my abuelito (grandfather) David Salinas for a few years.  She passed away when I was still very young and I remember the old folks asking if I would remember Sarita (a term of endearment for Sara, literally small and cute Sara), I remember answering “no se” (I don’t know) with a shrug. Well Sarita Salinas helped me to remember her and to think of her often. She does accompany me; at times I am embarrassed of my actions thinking what will she say when she sees this? 

That one Rosh Hashanah eve, Sara let it be known that she, and I imaging others can help us along, now and then. That evening numerous lives were changed.

Having now told the story tens of times I ignored requests to publish this story. Now as an old man, I am now compelled to tell the story to everyone who will read it. If it is meant to be public it will be published, if not it is a note to my abuelita, Sarita Salinas, to come back and keep an eye on me. I don’t believe that you leave me after 50 years and I do believe that you will be there to greet me when I part this world.

The love we shared when this little boy lived with you and my grandfather David Salinas has endured and accompanied me. Your speaking to Isidoro with me let me know you were there once upon a time and I believe that you are still there. You see my foibles and hopefully appreciate the good deeds and Jewish life that I lead. Although now an old man, I still remember you and think of you and other departed. Knowing that in the end I will experience you again.

Moises Paz Salinas