Dacia was the first resident of Mujeres Nuevo Comienzo; she was placed on April 4 of 2012. Coming from the Hospital de Salud Mental de Tijuana A. C., she was heavily medicated. A local doctor who works with the shelter began to wean her off her regimen as he felt it was extreme. Even after his intervention, she rarely moved and never socialized. She would sit in a chair for most of the day paying no attention to the activity around her. Apparently, the bad memories in her mind completely captivated her. When directed, she would walk to the dinner table and eat her meal. She showered when she was asked to do so. When told she would go to bed. When other residents came to live at the shelter, Dacia ignored them all, making no attempts to communicate with them. She didn’t return their efforts at conversation, would not smile nor make eye contact. Dorothy labeled her a zombie. Recalling those days she states, “It was clear that nobody was home.”
Six or seven months into Dacia’s stay Dorothy received a late phone call. A short time later a red van drove up to the front gate. A mother and two young children stepped out of the van. The stench was unbelievable. She attempted to find the strength to deal with the staggering and unpleasant task before her, but, to be honest, she was repelled. Dorothy stepped back and tried to compose herself. She was not aware that Dacia had followed her out to the front gate in the dark. As Dorothy stepped back, Dacia stepped forward. The same Dacia, who only took a slow and unenthusiastic step toward a bed or table after a directive, stepped forward with energy and purpose.
Dacia the “zombie” wrapped her arms around that mother, gently lead her into the house, and took her into the shower. The fifteen-year-old girl and her babies were all literally covered to their eyes with feces and other filth. Dacia tenderly helped the young mother peel off her clothes, revealing the savage battering she had just endured. As the rest of the household bathed the babies in a sink with warm water, Dacia peeled the crud off of their mother while speaking gentle, soothing words into her ear. Dacia, who had never once returned a “Hola!” or kind remark from another resident, was speaking healing words to this shattered and filthy young woman.
As Dorothy’s husband, Eduardo, made a huge pot of oatmeal for the newcomers, Dorothy tried to make sense of all that was happening around her. She could not. She did realize though that she had no right to label this surprising Florence Nightingale a zombie. When Dorothy stepped back from that stench and the prohibitive challenge before her, Dacia miraculously stepped forward with confidence.
Confidence? Prior to the van’s arrival, she could not confidently return eye contact or answer the simplest question with any confidence. Where did this come from? Dorothy did not know, but she was chastened and ashamed.
Prior to this night of miracles, Dorothy and the rest of the staff had scattered, incomplete bits of data about Dacia’s condition. She was a mother with several children. Six children had all been removed by the authorities; one child was unaccounted for. Skeletal fragments of a bizarre tale suggested that the child had perished in his grandmother’s toilet. Dacia was clearly triggered by any issue with a toilet. When the shelter’s toilet overflowed one day, causing sewage to flow freely out of the bathroom, Dacia had a breakdown. The lady who showed no emotion wept and shook in an apparent post-traumatic response. Whenever there were similar plumbing difficulties in the house, she would display consonant though less dramatic reactions. If the bizarre tale of grandma’s toilet was true, such a response was to be expected. What was not expected and what is not explained by the predictable course of PTSD, is Dacia’s reaction to the sewage covering the fifteen-year-old mother and her children. Any certified psychiatrist would confidently assert that Dacia would have been repelled and triggered by that red van. Why wasn’t she?
Dacia continued to astound Dorothy and the rest of the household after that evening. She started working as an aide in a home for seniors. She loved her work, and her supervisors loved it also. She worked there for one year. In the shelter, she astounded those who knew her past by singing joyfully with regularity and chatting eagerly with the other ladies.
We like all of our stories to have happy endings. This chapter does not have one. Dacia returned to live with her mother after losing employment at the old folks home. Her mother died, and the staff at Mujeres Nuevo Comienzo are aware that things are not going so well. We can tolerate betrayal, violence, and even crucifixion in our stories as long as there is a resurrection at the very end. But we forget that even the marvelous gospel story does not end with Jesus walking out of that tomb. It ends with him leaving his disciples stunned and speechless, a Sabbath’s walk away from Jerusalem. Imagine their distress. They had just recently recovered from the shock of his crucifixion, only to lose him again. Of course, the story did not end there as either. The Comforter came.
Likewise, Dacia’s story does not end at “things are not going so well.” The God who rolled her stone away when the red van appeared has not abandoned her because she made a bad decision or because she was fired from a job. He is not petty like that. His heart is a heart that always wants to provide another night of miracles. We can all pray that Dacia’s story will end well, even more gloriously than the good news presented in this chapter.