Stories for Liberation: When a Mother Must Bury Her Son

Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery (detail) Painting by Gwynne Duncan

Stories for Liberation: When a Mother Must Bury Her Son

By Rosalita Gonzalez

September 20, 2017 was an unforgettable day. Me and my two beautiful sons, Jose Miguel and Dominic Angel were supposed to be traveling to San Lorenzo to celebrate my cousin Ricardo’s birthday. Instead, Hurricane Maria decided to arrive in Puerto Rico, the island that we Puerto Ricans call “Isla del Encanto.” The day before, Maria passed through what we call “la Pared,” also known as the Virgin Islands. I have only seen such destruction a few times in my life. When Maria arrived in Puerto Rico, it entered through Humacao and passed through the entire Island. My birthplace, the town of Caguas, was destroyed.  I don’t know how we are going to reconstruct the heart of Puerto Rico.

Afterwards, Jose, Dominic and I started walking toward the Jose Market to check up on some family members, especially my uncle Lulo and his mother Herminia. Titi Mini was 93 years old and thank God they were able to be evacuated from their humble home. When we arrived at Abraham Lincoln Street and saw Titi Mini’s house, my heart started beating fast and I felt that something in my throat was preventing me from swallowing. I felt such fear, which I don’t ever want to feel again. The house in front also belonged to my uncles, but it was made from concrete and my Titi Mini’s was made from wood.

From there, we went to the plaza to eat pork, rice and beans, yellow and green plantains, and bread. There was also coffee and juice for the kids. When it was time to leave, they gave me 24 water bottles to take with us. There was also a bus to bring us to as close as possible to our homes.

The days passed as normal. Me and my sons would stay as close as possible to the plaza to be able to eat. However, the day came when there was not enough water to distribute to everyone and we left to my home without water. That night my oldest son Jose was thirsty and drank tap water. The following day, he was vomiting non-stop and fainted. They took us to the hospital. My “Cheito” caught a bacterial infection and he died on October 14, 2017.  Four days later, we had the wake and the next day I buried my son. My beautiful son was 10 years old. His name is Jose Miguel Nunez-Gonzalez. He was born July 3, 2007.

It is sad when a mother must bury her son in the ground. When Jose died, he took a part of my heart and of Dominic.  Finally, FEMA came to inspect my home and told me that I couldn’t live in this house anymore.

“Death has no meaning”.

Death has no meaning. It makes no sense. I only went to the other room. Nothing happened. Everything stayed the same way it was. I am me, you are you and the old life we lived happy together, no change, no touch.  What we are in life, we are in death.  Home to me is not family. Speak of me the same way you used to. Don’t change the tone of your voice. Don’t get sad when you speak of me. Laugh at jokes the same way we did. Laugh, think of me, pray for me and may my name never change in the house we lived. When you mention my name, don’t see me as a ghost.  My life goes on as always. What is death? Is it an accident?

Why am I not on your mind? Why don’t you see me? I am waiting for you near very near this room. Everything is good. Nothing hurts me. Nothing is lost. In just a few minutes we can be together again. What a joy it would be to be able to laugh at our problems when we are together again. This beautiful poem has a voice.


  1. One of the hardest things I could think of is losing a family member, much less a child. To read your story, and picture the disaster that happened and all the good you were trying to do, and then have such a personal and heartbreaking thing happen to you like this. I feel your pain, and I know this will touch many hearts that read this as well,

  2. For me reading this, the most impactful moment was finding how young Jose Miguel Nunez-Gonzalez was. So touching and a story that people need to hear.

  3. This story is very touching. I love how it talks about what people go through when there are natural disasters. The poem was just very beautiful. I especially love the quote “Death has no meaning” because sometimes death happens out of nowhere.

  4. “What we are in life, we are in death.”
    This line from the poem struck me because your story struck me. “This beautiful poem has a voice.” This poem and that line has a voice because you gave it a voice by writing this story.
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. As parent, I could completely relate to the the title of this great piece – no one should bury their children… In a mass devastation as PR had to face, the lack of a basic needs — such as water, and delayed response, if we can even call it that, from the government to be affiliated with the cause of the death of your 10 year old – is simply unacceptable. This is real life – real stories – real people. I’m deeply sorry for your loss.