This is a story about my death. Maybe someday someone will write about my life, (though I doubt it) but today I’m writing about my death and what happened after.
My name is Rosa Lopez and I was making empanadas when I died. It was a heart attack, quick and fatal. I was dead immediately. By the time I was found slumped in a heap next to the fryer I had been gone 10 minutes. There was nothing much for the paramedics to do except declare me legally dead, wrap me up, and bring me straight to the morgue.
That’s not the interesting part.
The story I am here to tell is what Emmie Espinoza did after I died. Emmie is only twelve years old but her heart is ageless. She’s a regular at the Morningstar Grill. Morningstar is where I lived and worked and where I died. I was there 32 years and it was my only home in America since the day I left the poverty of Mexico to support myself.
I was a widow. Mi Dios never gave the gift of children to my dear Alberto and myself. My brothers and sisters had long been living in different cities and towns and I was quite alone.
Until I came to America.
The people at Morningstar became my family and I became Abuela to them. I was there so long I saw a changing cast of characters and in my later years it was hard for me to distinguish one generation from the other.
But Emmie stands out. She is a gem among the rock solid people in my world. Her entire being sparkles. It’s like Dios made the finest of all creation and made her inside out so everyone who meets Emmie can see what goodness looks like.
When Emmie came around the day I died, it was not business as usual. The cook was still cooking, the servers were still serving, and the customers were still eating. But it was mostly silent. There was quiet crying, muffled sounds of sniffling. The gentes had not yet begun to talk about me, to share funny stories or to remember the finer moments with me. They were shocked and sad.
That’s what Emmie saw when she walked in to the restaurant that afternoon. Emmie cried too, but like I said, she is extraordinary. Her tears were unlike the tears of the others. Some were crying because they missed me. Some were sad for all I would miss. But Emmie was crying for joy. She knew I was with mi Dios and I was with my darling Alberto. She knew there was a heaven filled with my long gone relatives. She knew mi Madre and mi Pappy were giving me huge hugs and were at long last able to say to me how proud they were that I lived a righteous life.
I always suspected that Emmie was an angel clothed in a child’s body and throughout my death my suspicions were confirmed.
Emmie organized the funeral preparations. She didn’t let her age or inexperience stop her. And no one else tried to stop her either. She’s a natural born leader and enlisted the help of dozens of people, adults and kids to get the word out about my death.
It was Emmie who made the call to Father Sabine and set the plans in motion for the Vigil, Mass and burial.
It was Emmie who went to the funeral home where Mr. Sanchez took her seriously. He donated his services and helped her set up a proper burial fund for the money that was being collected.
It was Emmie who changed the tone at Morningstar from moaning and mourning to conversation and celebration just as she knew I would have wanted.
Emmie did all this in her humble yet “get it done way”.
My death was different from most other people’s death because there was no family to console yet everyone to console. Condolences were exchanged to each other. I’ve never seen anything like it. Harmony fell in the four block radius of Morningstar which was my world. The young neighborhood toughs were gentle that week. Disruption was replaced with peace. The old people noticed and reached out to the youngsters to give them hugs in my honor.
The church was always somewhere I went to pray and listen to mi Dios. The day of my funeral it was me and mi Dios in the church praying and listening to the people who came to pay their respects.
We talked too. Oh, the secrets we shared with them when I died! Secrets about the ecstasy of heaven. Whispers about what is to come. Nudges to remind them of their role on earth to feed the poor and help the needy. Mi Dios looked at me with wonder and told me it has been a very long time since His children had been so plentiful and so receptive in His house.
I am not sure why my death was so spectacular. I was a simple old woman who cooked and cleaned and cared for the people as best I could. I do know that in life I was always grateful and in death I am overwhelmed with gratitude for Emmie Espinoza, all the people who cared about me, and I am grateful to mi Dios.
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