Back in July of this year, I posted a blog about Tom Heaton of Mission Guatemala, whose twenty-year-old son José, was shot and killed on a bus in Guatemala City. This past Sunday, our church in California offered a Mass in honor of José. Although I know Tom, I had never met his son, but as our priest said the prayers asking for “the repose of the soul of José Heaton,” tears streamed down my face.
Tom adopted José from an orphanage when José was twelve years old. At José’s memorial service, Tom read a letter to his son, which he later posted on his Facebook page. With Tom’s permission, I am reprinting his letter in its entirety here.
It has been just over a week since I received the news of your death. I played back the message on my answering machine three times to make sure I heard everything correctly. I could not believe the words of George, a pastor in the neighborhood where you lived when I heard them. Jose is dead. It was the call I had dreaded would come for months. I shared the news with Manuel who immediately broke into tears.
There is so much that was left unsaid between us. I am certain I will continue to search for answers until my dying days. I was glad we were able to talk briefly on the phone just a few days earlier and both say, “I love you.”
Your life, especially your early years, was filled with such tragedy, and you had so many questions of your own that were never answered.
I am sure you must have wondered many times why you had to go live in the orphanage while your younger sister, Bea, got to live with family members. Although you were loved and cared for at Hogar Miguel Magone, it still isn’t the same as being loved and cared for by a family. I looked the other day at the picture of your birth mother holding you when you were around two years old. I too wonder why you ended up in the orphanage. I wonder why your birthfather never claimed you or Bea to be his children. I am sure it hurt you deeply that your aunt and grandmother cared for your sister while you lived away from them. I am also sure that you went to the orphanage because they loved you and wanted to make sure you were cared for… and you were.
I am also sure that the tragic murder of your mother affected you far deeper than I could ever know. Still, I will never forget the first day we met at Fundaninos orphanage. You had no idea what was going on, but the smile on your face charmed me right away. I know after we left, Vilma told you that I wanted to adopt you. After spending some more time together while we were in Guatemala, I am so glad you said yes. I think we still have the fastest Guatemala adoption on record. It was 45 days from the time my paperwork entered the system until the signature went on the paper making you Jose Luis Heaton. You told me that you never dreamed anyone would want to adopt a 12 year old boy.
Our family did not turn out how I had dreamed. Your life did not become what I had hoped it would be. But nonetheless, we were still a family. I am grateful that I was able to provide for you experiences and opportunities you would not have had otherwise. (more…)