My Friend Maria

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I attended the University of the Americas in Mexico City  during the 1967-68  school year. I was a junior,  majoring  in  Philosophy. Logic and dialectic were the tools  with which I  proved and examined all statements and beliefs.

I believed man’s power-indeed, his every humanity-revolved  around  his ability to reason. Accordingly, I scorned anything that  smacked of the “irrational,”  including religious experiences  of an extraordinary nature, psychic phenomena, and out-of-body experiences.

During the  Christmas vacation of 1967 some  friends and  I rented  a villa in the seaside town of Playa Azul. This Pacific Ocean town is  approximately two hundred miles north of Acapulco. Our live-in maid and cook was a woman named  Maria Sanchez, a charming, although quiet and serious woman of about  fifty-five years. because  of a severe sunburn I spent most of the vacation  relaxing in the Villa and I got  to know Maria rather well.

Although she had little formal schooling, she possessed a  quick wit  and keen sense of observation. Our long talks  ranged freely from topic to topic. She was deeply religious  and told me  many stories of miracles and visions.  I dis-missed these tales as local folklore.  She firmly maintained  that she herself had seen visions. I laughed and told her she  had an overactive imagination.

After I returned to the United States I occasionally wrote  Maria a short letter or postcard. She answer regularly with long. Carefully written letters. In 1970  I was  drafted  into the army and sent to Vietnam.  My faith in reason was shattered by the hell I found there.  This is what “rational” men do? I asked myself.

In September 1970 I was  wounded and sent  to the regimental hospital. I was in a state of deep depression and  knew that I would never survive my tour of duty. I was certain I would be  killed  or crippled, or that  I would “freakout”.

One night I had the most vivid dream in my life.  I was  sitting on a beach in my uniform with my rifle by my side. Maria sat by me silently and stroked my head. Her cool,  soothing palm on my forehead filled me with a  wonderful peace.

I awoke the next morning feeling calm and somehow confident that everything would turn out for the best. I immediately sat down and wrote Maria a letter. I returned to duty strangely purged of my depression. In late December I received a letter from Maria’s daughter Graciela Moises.

She apologized for not writing sooner. Her mother, she told me, had died in September. She said that her mother had been very fond of me and often had spoken of me.

I still  think about Maria often. I am certain that our friendship transcended those barriers  of time and space in a manner that cannot be explained  logically or “rationally.”

Francis E. kazemek

Urbana, Illinois

June 1976

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