In the following passage, the elderly curandera Rafaela meets with Barry Sullivan in a barrio tavern. He is just beginning to face difficult choices ahead. She speaks of parents as the bridge from heaven to earth-- a sentimental, yet powerful picture of the vulnerability of children in the world. Adults must stand on this bridge between heaven and earth as the Guardians of childhood.
“You might be done with the saints, but they aren’t done with you. They yearn for you to wake up to your responsibility. You wait on a bridge between heaven and everything else—spanning dangerous waters. Like the guardian angel.”
The room chilled around Barry, as he remembered the picture Ma gave Ceci.
“From the moment of conception, Barry, our purpose is to guard our children from harm. Every parent is to be a bridge between heaven and earth. A child only knows heaven. Crossing into the world with all its trouble, the child is in peril. The parent is like that guardian angel, offering a hand to guide the child over the broken places. Our love makes it up to them for having to leave heaven.”
“How—how can a lousy, no-good man do the work of an angel?”
“Full intention, Barry, that’s what it takes. You can’t be a parent part-time.”
“That’s the same axe Carmen grinds. Listen, I have to work, Rafaela!”
“Everyone works, but not so far from their children. Until Cecilita is stronger she needs you close by.” She tapped her heart. “Right here! Later, she will be strong enough for you to go sometimes. Please stay with her now, amigo. Care for your daughter. Help her heal. . .not from a distance, but close up!”