Michelle M. Palmer

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Nelson Velázquez Souchet

ASHES TO ASHES – DUST TO DUST –

“This is just the beginning of something new,’’ said Nelson falling into a deep dream.

September 9, 1993 was longest and most cheerless night ever. On that night, after his wife went to bed, Nelson locked himself in the bathroom and drank a powerful insecticide. When his wife woke up, she found him lying in a pool of blood.

An ambulance arrived and carried Nelson to the nearest hospital in Yauco, Dr. Tito Mattei Hospital. It was one o’clock in the morning and Nelson knew that help was too late. The doctors tried but could not stop the internal bleeding.

Nelson’s last wishes are to see his family. His only son knew nothing of his father’s fate.

Nelson Velázquez Souchet dies apologizing to his two daughters and wife. “I promise I will always take care of my beloved family. Be strong and don’t fail like I did. In moments of struggle and despair look for the light and stand up. Life is a gift. Spend it well. Love and respect each other always because life doesn’t end here, it continues,” whispered Nelson with his last breath.

José Velázquez and Concepción Souchet gave birth to the third of their five children in a small suburb, Macaná at Peñuelas, Puerto Rico. Nelson Velázquez Souchet was born in October 29, 1941. He is only three-years-old when he goes to live with his grandparents who live near his parents’ house.

Since he was a young child, Nelson loved sports. He played basketball and volleyball, but stood out in baseball where he played third base for the Peñuelas team. He was always a hyperactive and mischievous boy. He did not like school. Instead he preferred riding horses or playing with his best friend, a dog named Max.

His family and friends baptized him, “Peligro,” because he wasn’t scared of anything. He deliberately picked fights with bigger and stronger kids, often to protect smaller kids from bullies. “It is the potential of your heart that makes you stronger. Size doesn’t matter,” he shouted at his grandmother when he was but ten years old, while cleaning himself up from a fight in the mud.

There was an old lady and man in the neighborhood every child was scared of. Her name was Rosa Laquía and his name was Bibes. It was said, she was a witch, and Bibes was the crazy man who ran after children all over Peñuelas Mountain. But for Nelson, they were common people. He was polite and greeted them with fruits he collected from the trees near the river.

Nelson was a giver, even if it didn’t belong to him. Not that he was a thief; he just gave people who needed things that weren’t his. His intentions were always the best. For example, there was a time when an old lady needed some money for food and clothes for her grandchild. Nelson took money from his grandparents bucket and gave it to her.  It wasn’t much but he knew it was better than nothing.

In 1953, in Macaná, at only twelve-years-old, Nelson jumped into a huge pond. He did not know how to swim, but he was determined to learn. A week later, he was a great swimmer and he prepared himself to teach others; adults and children lined up for lessons.

July 1957, was the worst month in Nelson Velázquez’ life. His dearest grandmother Monserrate Maldonado, who he called

Nelson and friend

Mamá, died of a heart attack. It made him realize how painful it is to lose a special person. He could not overcome the loss. For Nelson, losing Monserrate was like losing part of his life. He was so attached to her that he kept dreaming of her existence. The house, the smell of the flowers, the daily routine, the dog, the chickens, the pictures, everything brought back memories of his grandmother. Nelson stayed with his grandfather, Emanuel Souchet, until September 1957, and then he decided to live with his parents and move to Guayanilla Pueblo, where he tried to accept the death of his grandmother and move on.

Years passed. His charisma and spirit was of a great service to him. He was known for his enthusiasm for giving nicknames to everyone in Guayanilla. He used to call his best friend, Mani Mono, because he was covered with lots of hair and his girl friend, La Culeca, she used to walk like a dog waving its tail. It helped him earn the love of all the townsfolk. With a great effort, he graduated from high school with honors. At eighteen he decided to enlist in the military. In 1959 he was sent to Vietnam where he spent four years in combat, which were the bloodiest of all.

Nelson Velázquez in Vietnam

Between 1963-1964, he came back from Vietnam. He clearly remembered those long days and endless nights he spent his life fighting for United States.

“Strong memories from the past are never erased and can last forever changing the life of any human being. One person suffers in war, suffering more than those who die. I am dying slowly in pain,’’ exclaimed Nelson when he arrived home. Nelson suffered because all his friends died on the battlefield. He was the only one who survived. War had made him a man and to understand that life was a gift.

One Sunday, he met Mildred Miranda Pacheco at the church in Guayanilla. They both shared many things in common and in a blink of an eye they fell in love. On New Year’s Day in 1965, Nelson Velázquez Souchet proposed to Mildred

Nelson Velázquez Souchet & Mildred Velázquez Miranda

Miranda Pacheco. Eight months later they where happily married and moved to urbanization Santa María at Guayanilla. Nelson and Mildred raised a family of their own, Idalmis, Mildred, and Nelson Junior. At the time, Nelson started working in a petrochemical plant in Ponce, La Colco. There he spent many years dedicated to engineering. He was honored as best employee of the month more than three times.

During 1977, Nelson lost his job. Knowing that he couldn’t maintain his family made him really depressed and unstable. He started drinking alcohol and mixing it with pills. This act of immaturity affected his mind and sometimes made him hallucinate. He knew he was sick, but kept it a secret buried inside him.  Eventually, the pain drove him to take his own life.

Nelson Velázquez Souchet is recognized as a beloved father, husband, and grandfather. All family and friends commemorate him as an honorable man, a sportsman, a cheerful giver, a good soldier, and respectful person with a strong desire to succeed in life.

Papá Nelson, as his granddaughter, Michelle, called him, continued to play an important role in her life after he died. Michelle was only four-years-old when she woke up crying one night. Her mother Mildred gave her a bath and asked her why she was crying.

“Papá was playing catch the ball with me. Then he said goodbye my little princess, gave me a kiss, and told me to be good as always. He said that even if I couldn’t see him, he would always be near,” sighed Michelle to her mother.

Nelson is now an angel looking out for his family but more importantly for his nena preciosa, Michelle.  Even though Nelson took his own life, to Michelle, he is a hero. She will always keep him in her heart, and she knows he watches over her.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. This is a very beautiful story. Nelson was really a hero, he just made a mistake that cost him his life. It is a very emotional and personal story, and I am glad you chose to share it.

  2. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing such personal memories and experiences. It sad to see how often people become victims to honor.

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