Úrsula needs to put great effort into dying when the rain clears, as she had promised. She is embarrassed to discover that the children treated her like a plaything for years. She gets out of bed on her own to rejoin family life, and goes to work, restoring the quality of the house, as though nothing is wrong with her body. When she finds José Arcadio Segundo still locked up with Melquíades’ parchments, she insults him for living like a pig and he repeats one of her own sayings back to her: “What did you expect? Time passes.” She responds with Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s reply, “That’s how it goes, but not so much,” and realizes that time is moving in a circle.
When the rain clears, Úrsula regains her wits and remembers that this is when she promised she would die. Before she dies, she goes back to work, as though nothing was wrong with her for the years in which she remained in bed and confused. In the same way that José Arcadio Buendía, her husband, believed that each day repeated itself, she can also see the way that time cycles on itself, as her great-grandson repeats her own wisdom to her.
José Arcadio (II) writes Fernanda that he plans to return to Macondo before taking his priestly vows. She commits to reviving the garden to impress her son on his return and tries to hasten her correspondence with the doctors. Úrsula orders that the house be opened to visitors again, but Fernanda insists the house remain closed. Aureliano Segundo goes around town selling raffle tickets for Petra Cotes, but he doesn’t realize that the people who buy them are often doing so out of pity for him. The drawing of the raffle tickets, though, becomes a weekly fair. The relationship between Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes changes, until they settle into a “paradise of shared solitude.”
Úrsula has always thrived by having a very social life, but Fernanda has preferred a life of solitude. Now that the rain has stopped, Aureliano Segundo takes up Petra Cotes’ old occupation of selling raffle tickets. At first it seems as though those who participate are only humoring him, but all of the residents of Macondo have fallen on hard times and the hope that they might win some livestock in a raffle helps revive their spirits. Though the relationship of Aureliano Segundo and his mistress had always been built on mutual passion and companionship, in old age it, too, has turned toward solitude.
Amaranta Úrsula is sent to a small private school and Aureliano is forbidden from attending public school, continuing his sequestration in the house. One afternoon Úrsula asks him who he is, and when he tells her his name, she mistakes him for her son, and tells him it’s time to begin to learn silver-smithing. Úrsula’s senility returns and the family cannot tell the difference between what she recounts as a current feeling and what she is remembering. Her body shrivels up, causing her to look as much like a newborn as an old woman. The children continue playing with Úrsula’s body, declaring her dead. Úrsula tries to protest, but realizes, to her surprise, that they are correct. She estimated her age to be between 115 and 122.
Amaranta Úrsula follows the pattern of girls in the family being sent away to school, but little Aureliano is left to educate himself, as Fernanda is still trying to keep his existence a secret from the rest of Macondo. Úrsula again reverts to her state of dementia, and the family struggles to communicate with her, as they did with José Arcadio Buendía when he began speaking Latin and believing that time moved in a tight circle. Her body’s changes again echo the way the elderly can move into a second childhood. Úrsula does not even realize she is dead until the children declare it to be so, showing how fluid even the movement between life and death is.
Birds run into walls and break through the screens to die in the bedrooms. The townspeople assume it’s a plague, but the 100-year-old Father Antonio Isabel claims that the birds are dying because of the influence of a half-billy goat, half-female heretic he refers to as the Wandering Jew. The people of the town assume he is rambling out of old age, as well, until a woman sees some hoof tracks, and the people of the town set traps for the creature, catching it and hanging it in the square for all to see.
The return of the birds to Macondo is blamed on a mythical being that is at first doubted and then punished as an example of straying from the Catholic faith. The birds, though, could be seen as a return of the wild birds who once inhabited the land, showing how Macondo is slowly breaking down and becoming wild again.
Rebeca dies at the end of the year. Aureliano Segundo tries to fix up her house to sell it, but it proves beyond repair. With Úrsula’s death, the Buendía house also falls into disrepair. The invisible doctors examine Fernanda for hours, but find nothing wrong with her that matches her symptoms. The issue might be that Fernanda continues to use the wrong words for things. Aureliano Segundo promises to send Amaranta Úrsula to school in Brussels and Aureliano shows no interest in anything outside the front door. José Arcadio Segundo teaches Aureliano how to read and write, and shows him what he’s figured out in the parchments of Melquíades.
Rebeca, forgotten by the family entirely at this point, finally passes away, and even her house is irreparable, having gone unattended for so long. This house provides an example of what is beginning to happen to the Buendía house, as well, without Úrsula there doing the hard work of keeping it up. Fernanda’s inability to communicate what’s wrong with her seems to be causing her pain, which might also indicate that hypochondria is the source of her distress. José Arcadio Segundo passes on all he has learned in Melquíades’ workshop to his grandnephew so that the work of deciphering the parchments might continue after his death.
Aureliano Segundo feels a knot in his throat. He visits Pilar Ternera, now one hundred years old and running a brothel, for a remedy. She reads her cards and tells him that a tumor has formed in his throat because Fernanda has poorly performed black arts trying to get him to return home. She tells him a ritual to perform to counter the effects of the spell on him and he feels immediately better. Six months later though, he wakes up coughing and realizes the truth: he is dying. He tells no one, working as hard as he can to earn the money to send Amaranta Úrsula to school as he had promised. He organizes a raffle of the lands decimated by the rains and the celebration on the evening of the raffle rivals the biggest parties that came before.
Fernanda, a devout Catholic, is unable to put the black arts to use for her, mangling the spell. Despite the cure offered by Pilar Ternera, though, Aureliano Segundo is still vulnerable to the health problems that come with having lived a life of gluttony into old age. In the same way that Colonel Aureliano Buendía realized he was fighting for his pride all those years, Aureliano Segundo keeps his illness secret so that he might provide for his family before he goes. It is apt that he, the king of revelry, throws one more party before he goes.
Two months later Amaranta Úrsula goes to Brussels to stay at a boarding house run by a nun recommended by Father Ángel. Fernanda has packed her baggage, trying to get her to take along the golden chamber pot, but Amaranta Úrsula refuses it. Amaranta Úrsula, waving from the train car, will be the way Aureliano Segundo remembers her a few months later, at his hour of death. On the ninth of August, José Arcadio Segundo tells Aureliano to always remember that 3000 people died in the banana massacre and were thrown into the sea, before dying with his eyes open. At the same moment, Aureliano Segundo dies in his bed.
Amaranta Úrsula’s refusal of the golden chamber pot reinforces the ways that she and her mother are different, turning down such an ostentatious display of wealth to be used for such a disgusting purpose. Again, readers flash forward to the memory that appears to a character, this time Aureliano Segundo on his death bed. That José Arcadio Segundo dies with his eyes open seems like proof that he and his brother switched identities in their youth. The connection between the twins is evident in the fact that they die at the same time.
Petra Cotes visits the Buendía house to deliver the shoes that Aureliano Segundo asked to be buried in. She asks Fernanda if she might see the body, but Fernanda won’t permit it and refuses to take the shoes. Santa Sofia de la Piedad cuts the throat of José Arcadio Segundo to ensure that they are not burying him alive, his greatest fear. The twins are again as identical as the day they were born and the drunkards who carry their coffins out of the Buendía house accidentally bury the men in each other’s graves.
Petra Cotes, Aureliano Segundo’s lifetime companion, is denied all respect and sympathy from Fernanda upon the death of her lover. Fernanda bears such resentment that she won’t even accept the shoes her husband wished to be buried in. The men’s bodies being buried in each other’s graves continues the confusion around their identities even after death, but ultimately returns each body to its rightful name, so that, perhaps, they can rest in peace.