Early the next morning, the couple went to church again. When they returned, two Marines were waiting in the living room. They had been politely fending off questions from Rosa's 80-year-old mother, who was worried.
Jorge had died, they said, as Marines tried to take a bridge on the Euphrates River in Nasiriyah. Rosa stomped and sobbed.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 14, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Soup name -- An article in Wednesday's Section A about a Mexican immigrant grieving for her son, a Marine who was killed in Iraq, incorrectly spelled the name of a bean soup as frijoles de la hoya. It is frijoles de la olla.
"Get out and bring back my son the way I gave him to you," she cried.
One of the Marines wept.
For Rosa, going to church took on the drudgery of the routine -- if she went at all.
"I used to go with my heart in my hand," she said. "Now, I go because it's a Sunday, and that's what you do."
She no longer asked God for anything. As her last prayers turned into earnest pleas for miracles -- that authorities had made a mistake, that Jorge was still alive -- her faith began to lose its timbre, like a fading echo.
She still believed, though; still believed God deserved respect.
"I'm not a hypocrite," Rosa said. "The way I feel right now -- angry at him, hurt -- I'm not going to ask him for anything. I'm not talking to him."
The horrors of grief swept over her tight-knit family.
Ivan had been the family's best hope to go straight to a four-year university, but he got two Fs in the second semester. He had become distracted, frustrated by the frequent questions at school about how his brother died.
Nancy argued with her parents, failed and missed classes and at times puzzled family members with inappropriate comments.
Nine-year-old Marisol slumped and cried as the family drove past San Diego -- where Jorge was buried -- to visit family in Tijuana. She began to see time as a burden.
"How long do you think I'll live?" she asked her father one day. Mario considered the question and answered hopefully, "Maybe as long as your grandmother."
Marisol screwed her face. "Hmm, that long without seeing Jorge."
Alan spent much of his seventh birthday in April peering over his shoulder to where a memorial had been set up for his brother in the living room. Jorge's grim-faced Marine portrait was surrounded by photos of him as a toddler with tousled hair and a goofy grin. Jorge had been Alan's godfather.
As his family changed around him, Mario Gonzalez, 48, fought hard to center himself, to keep the family on an even keel.
"We have to harmonize as a family. We are a weakened family right now," he said. "Our spirits are spent. We have to survive this pain we have for Jorge. Jorge suffered, he was afraid and he died, and for someone to forget his pain so easily, it seems like a betrayal. But we have to move forward."
Days after Jorge's death, relatives converged on the Rialto home.
Often, the family sat in a semicircle in the living room, discussing Jorge and the war. For most of Mario's brothers and sisters living in Mexico, the war was an unjust act of aggression against a weak country.
"This is a war of ambition," Jacinta Perez, Mario's mother, said sorrowfully.
Jorge died, some of the relatives said, because his country was warlike, power hungry and por metiches -- a phrase used to describe someone who constantly intrudes into other people's business.
Even as her anger against the government brewed, Rosa's first reaction was instinctive: speak up for the country.
"Yes, por metiches, and perhaps also for power and for money, but also because this is a great country, a country that liberates," Rosa told her relatives. She recalled how, in one of her last conversations with Jorge, he told her, "Mom, we're going to free that country. We're doing something good."
And yet for a while Rosa wondered if she had made a mistake coming to the United States. In her mind, not crossing the border meant not meeting Mario and not having Jorge and not having to bury him.
"You come here so you can progress and for your children to progress and fulfill their dreams -- and what did I accomplish?" she asked one day.
When Jorge and his brother Mario were only 5 and 6, Rosa and her husband briefly moved back to Durango, where they sold shoes door to door. When Rosa got pregnant, they realized that Jorge and little Mario, as American citizens, would have opportunities the other child would lack.
So they returned, setting Jorge on the path that would lead to the Marines.
After his death, Rosa grasped for ways to honor her son. She talked about lobbying the government to create more scholarships for young Latinos.
"My son is going to cost them," she promised Rep. Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino) when he visited the Gonzalez home. "Not in money. But in scholarships for his brothers. Not his blood brothers, but others like him."
But her plans didn't go far. She had no idea how to act on them.
She also tried to reach out to other families of slain Marines, hoping they would join her in protesting Bush administration policies.
Rosa and her husband attended the funeral of a slain soldier, but his family politely told them they weren't interested in politics.
Then there were Rosa's dreams.