Erendina Cesário, Dina, as everyone calls her, started having labor pains at the same time the pain of losing, took over her whole body. She saw her 2 year old daughter die, in her arms and gave birth to Beatriz, 2 hours later: “I arrived at the hospital with Tania, she had a heart condition, she seemed very weak. She was having one more of her crisis. I was holding my baby in my arms but I realized she was saying goodbye… Then I asked someone to give me some water so I could give it to her but I didn’t have time. She had a heart attack.”
I ask her about the meaning of this ritual and Dina answers that she doesn’t know and this doesn’t matter. “ That’s how my grandmas taught me,” she says. Grandmas also told her that if a mother looks at her child before death, the child drops one single tear. She looked at Tania’s face when she passed. And she can tell: “I saw the tear”.
Dina dressed the girl with her baptism pink clothes and the police took her to perform the autopsy – mandatory according to Brazilian laws. Then she prepared herself to give birth to Beatriz, her fifth daughter of nine girls and a boy. She names the girls in order: “Maria Gorete, Nazilde, Valéria, Tânia, Beatriz, Sandra, Eliane, Erondina and Dulcinéia”. Her younger son, the only man: “His name is José, just like his dad”.
At age of 78, Dina has already seen death near her many times. She buried her husband, hit by a bus almost 40 years ago, and three daughters. Tania died of a congenital heart condition, Nazilde passed at the age of 43 after suffering a stroke, and Valeria succumbed to cancer at 52.
If on one hand she was faced with death, she has also seen life some times. She has accumulated experience with each story – so much that she could hold Beatriz in her belly for a few hours in order to be with Tania when she passed – and in her last deliveries she hasn’t called Amelia, the midwife anymore. “Just when I had to cut the cord I asked one of the children to go after someone. When my husband passed I also got by completely alone. I brought all the kids up by myself, working as a maid.”
Dina talks about death easily as she talks about life. For her, dyeing is not something from another world. On the contrary: it is just the other side of the same coin. “We won’t forget the loss of a loved one, but we will overcome it. Will live one day at a time, slowly,” she says, then she tells, proudly, that she was happy to be able to help carrying her daughter’s casket, Nazilde. “When my first daughter passed away I could not attend the funeral because of the birth of Beatriz and it was worse. Every time I walked by the cemetery I felt my heart cold and empty. It seemed it was over for me. Afterwards, time brought me back; God was making me strong again. Death teaches us to cope better with things, then the funeral of Nazilde I wanted to live that for real. We have to allow ourselves to live both, joy and suffering, because both have their beauty. I believe that God schedules our day of birth and also the day of our death. God is good, he gave me nine daughters and when they took Joe away from me, my husband left me a boy … my only son, who always took good care of me. “
When her husband died, Dina got even stronger. She hasn’t shed a tea and that’s why there were people in the neighborhood saying that she was not suffering. “And what good would it do to cry? With so many children at home, I had to be strong. In death everything hurts, but I decided not to give in to pain. Depression is so evil; I want it away from me! I have always asked God not to let me get sick and almost at the age of 80 I haven’t had anything serious yet … Thank God! “
With seven children, 44 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren, Mrs. Dina hopes to live long enough in order to meet some great grandchildren. She is wise: life taught her that there are good-byes, but there are also hellos.