O Rio Branco Gazette
Wednesday, July 30, 1986 - No. 2. 890 / Rio Branco - Ac.
Farewell my brothers and sisters, for now I am going on, I am leaving, destined for the River Jordan
In this moment I fulfill a loving duty, although so painful, to communicate to mankind the death of Raimundo Gomes da Silva. Before me I have an open window through which I see the flowers in which the arroxins sipped their nectar while performing their dance. It is nighttime, the plants are sad, without their visitors, and on this night I must ask Mestre to gather in me all memory of this good and simple man so I can explain to the world what it has lost -- what the world has lost in all these centuries where people have forgotten to observe the flight of the birds and the steps of good and simple men.
By one of those good fortunes, which people usually call chance or coincidence, Raimundo Gomes da Silva was born on June 24, the Day of St. John the Baptist, in the year 1916. It was in Belém. His father, Antonio Gomes da Silva, decided to navigate to Acre, where he was told he would find a treasure. The ship that brought that family, along with numerous other families, arrived in 1918 at its destination. Destination... Four years earlier there had come to Acre another vessel bringing another immigrant. A young black man from Maranhão, very tall and strong, also called Raimundo. Raimundo Irineu Serra.
The years passed. The two-year old boy grew up and completed his 21st in a world of rubber tappers, chestnut trees, farmers, employers, goods and mysteries. Then came the meeting, long destined. It is Raimundo Gomes who recalls.
I was in the market weighing a bag of rice that totaled more than 200 pounds. Then I looked left and right to see if I could find someone to help me lift the bag on my back. So then along came a policeman, a big tall black guy, strong, in full uniform. This was when I thought: "this is the one to help me." I called him and asked if he could place the bag on my back, and he promptly complied. He even said: "Boy, be careful, that weight is too much for you." And I answered, "don't worry, I don't have far to go, I can take it". And I left.
Tell me memory, how can you relive a moment? How can one bring back the presence and the permanence of an encounter lived in time if the world is always slipping away, in constant movement? The world has changed, and to remember these things from an old Acre is to be in a time of men different to those of today, men who were worth their word and labour and who had a great sense of honor. Not that bragging and foreign honor of the liars of official history. Rather that intimate honor, when a man knows deep within himself that he is honest and worthy. A time when to shake someone's hand was a contract, a commitment, a promise, more than a simple greeting.
The elder Antônio Gomes finally discovered the treasure. He had learned that Raimundo, called Irineu, was a master teacher of a spiritual doctrine who gathered together with his disciples to study divine mysteries. They cultivated a drink called huasca, made with a vine and a leaf from the forest that was able to show things that the eyes of the flesh cannot see. Mestre Irineu had named the drink Santo Daime because it was in this way that people asked, "Give me," and they would receive hymns that spoke of the joy of God's kingdom. Raimundo Gomes accompanied his father and his siblings and entered into the work of Mestre as one who sets out to sea for a long journey guided by the stars.
How does one speak about this "sea" for mankind? For millennia good and simple men who know the path of the stars have been saying and showing it, but they are persecuted and ridiculed. How does one say that there are mysteries in the cycles of the Moon to those who only see the immediacy of money and food, and for which they do not even thank the earth for having given them? How does one say that there is another life to a mankind that doesn't believe in this one and insists on destroying it? "I asked everybody to where does the path lead and nobody answered me, I go traveling alone" said Mestre Irineu. Raimundo Gomes followed him. For half a century he worked and now he was reaping the fruits of his labor.
He sailed a lot and learned a lot. He formed his own hymnbook, passing along the teachings he received. He became a healer. Many arrived near death at his doorstep and left recovered. He knew the plants and the prayers, he knew the right words to say and gave safe guidance, and he knew the way of harmony. He stood in for Mestre Irineu in his absence. He presided over the works, attended to everyone, took responsibility and was accountable.
His Ramalho has 132 flowers, hymns of deep wisdom and touching poetry in simple and clear language. Precise language from one who knew what words were for. He was a quiet man. He spoke only when asked and within context, without overdoing it. I never met a greater prophet, but he wasn't boastful. There are some out there that try to appear so and adopt gestures, vocal affectations, strangeness in their clothing and physical appearance. They think that by changing their looks they can attain the essence. Raimundo Gomes was simple. What he was -- and is -- he would not only avoid showing, he would also hide. He used to say that humility provides everything to a man and that "we should be just what we are". Simple, clear, straightforward: a world that has lost its sense of measure does not fit such a man.
The Strong Arm
Who performed the baptisms? Raimundo Gomes. He introduced one and all to the path he had chosen, that which he thought was just and true. And it could only be him. More childlike than any kid, it was common to see him staying away from the circles where men made politics, talking instead with a five-year-old boy sitting on the edge of a bench. He had a father's affection for the little ones who came up to him to climb into his arms, take his hat and learn that life is good. "My life is a peaceful life", he would sing while working hard in the fields, in the rubber plantations, in trade, in the rearing of animals.
He unfolded himself into a thousand pieces to account for everything. "I always have a strong arm by my side, it is a higher force, and it is there that I am firmed", he would sing once more, because he knew who he was, the post he occupied and the mission he had to fulfill. And he did not know what fear was.
Wisdom? Not only were his hymns of unattainable depth for the ordinary person, he also brought knowledge in his own life and in everything he did. And he didn't even know how to write. He wasn't able to sign his own name. One day we sang one of his hymns wrong. We sang "and" in the place where there was a comma. He stopped and explained how it should be, showing a grammatical sharpness that went far beyond the phrase, reaching the very meaning of construction and articulation of words. For the illiterate like himself, he ministered subtle and deep knowledge, and to the academics he explained the fundamentals of existence. Who could, in this time of illusion, value a poor man, illiterate, unknown? Ah, my old Raimundo, I am not sure if I can agree with you and your optimism to think that this world can get better. Men are so distracted from what really matters.
He once told me about a dream. He had seen a field destroyed with much slaughter. He met with Mestre, who told him that there would be a change around Brazil, but for him to have faith in God and that he would pass through this with all his family. I remember it very well. It was during the time of Tancredo Neves, the Electoral College, when there were rumors of a military coup and other more dangerous things. I kept an eye on the television, waiting for a "change". A few days later came a cold front of wind from the South. It killed six thousand head of cattle in Mato Grosso through thermal shock, because in a few hours the temperature fell from 34ºC to 4ºC. Many people fell ill, including from among the family of Raimundo Gomes.
And then I learned that I was looking at the world in a superficial and empty way. The empires, laws, governments, everything rises and then disappears. But the real world of earth, water, air, fire and spirit is to which the good and simple men look, because it is a lasting world. The eternal is what matters, health and well-being are what matters, life is what matters. Not the empires of earth, which mankind builds and destroys like sand castles.
My Master Called Me
At the end of his life, he concentrated everything he knew. While presiding over the Doctrine, he left everything prepared for his departure. He placed each in their respective place, renewed ties and commitments, as it was his duty to call for union. He began to give announcements. One day we sang his hymnbook in the Santa Luzia Colony, located beyond Bujari, fulfilling a promise he had made to visit this place every year. On this occasion he said, "This is the last time I will see this place, next year I'll no longer be present". And he began his battle with his own heart. He had received from Mrs. Peregrina Gomes Serra, his niece and wife of Mestre Irineu, the main leader of the Doctrine after Mestre's passing, the task of presiding over the Centre. He wanted to fulfill his mission to the end. In winter, enduring every crisis that oppressed his chest, he walked through the rain and the mud to get to where the works were held and conduct the sessions. He was advised by friends to spare himself, to wait for the summer when he could ride in a car. He would say nothing. He would just meet, determinedly, with discipline, his mission.
His assistants, especially his friend and secretary Sebastian Jaccoud, would worry. The family did everything they could. His wife, Mrs. Osmarina, did what she could to prevent him from stubbornly going out to work in the fields. Nephews, godchildren, friends, everyone wanted to help. He gave each one their task, but the greatest obligation, the biggest sacrifice he kept to himself. He healed, prayed and counseled. And deep down he suffered in silence, preparing for his departure. A week before, everyone began to have dreams, but no one wanted to believe them. He told his wife:
I'm prepared. I don't have an ounce of fear. I know who I am, I know the place that I have prepared and where I will stay. Whenever Mestre determines, I'll go. The only thing that still holds me here is the longing of my family, and the only thing that saddens me is not being able to see the younger children grow up.
On July 27, on the dawn of Sunday, he passed away without complaint, with the same firmness that he showed throughout his life. He got up from bed, sat down on a chair in the living room and asked for a tea to be prepared for him. He tilted his head to one side and passed away.
With emotion we kept watch over his body and buried him at the foot of the Holy Cross, at the entrance to the Centre. We will forever treasure the memory of his smile, of his face under his hat, his word, his love. And while mankind absent-mindedly runs from one side to the other in search of something without knowing what it is, we know that the time has come and the world will tremble. He told us, and we listened and we will remember.
The celebration of his 70 years, on the last day of St. John, will remain forever in our memory. There was a huge cake in the shape of an open book with a line from one of his hymns: "I trust in myself to be a pastor". He lived 70 years, one month and three days. This was the time that the world had him. Now God has him.
Men and women of the world, listen. Wisdom exists. It comes from the heart of the universe to inhabit the earth through good and simple men such as Raimundo Gomes da Silva, who brought within him the infinite and leaves us this infinite longing.