Somewhere between waiting to board my flight and mentally recalling every single item I have hastily packed, my memories of Irma insinuated itself into my consciousness. I am transported again to that cold January day, more than 13 years ago when my sister and I received the call. There had been an emergency at one of our locations.
Irma was working at our south store. She was serving customers in her usual efficient and congenial self. As she handed change to a customer, she was said to have looked blankly at her customer for a few seconds. Then she fell backwards to the ground. The other staff rushed to her side while someone called 911. The paramedics did what they could to revive Irma. But she was already dead when they arrived.
And so, at a tender age of 34 years, Irma left behind a stunned husband and three anguished children. Just before Thanksgiving, Irma had confided tearfully that her sixteen year old daughter had gotten pregnant and her boyfriend did not want any part of it. She was extremely distressed by this. She had such great aspirations for her daughter. Her son, who was 14, was heavily involved with some local gangs. The youngest, who looked very much like her, was only 10 years old. But according to Irma’s close friends, her youngest seemed to have taken it upon herself to look out for everyone in the family.
Irma and her husband each held two and a half jobs. She came in to work at our south location at seven in the morning five days a week. By 3:30 p.m., she headed home. But by 6:00 p.m., she was at her second job. This ended at 2:30 a.m. On weekends, she worked part-time cleaning homes. Needless to say, she was hardly home long enough to have a meaningful dialogue with her children as they were growing up.
It turns out that aside from raising their children, the couple was also supporting their relatives’ families in their province. Between these two workaholics, many relatives were put through school, and those in need of vehicles or repairs on their modest homes, were helped over time.
But what does this say of a life? That she trudged the corridors of our retail location? Filled the shelves with products? Handed accurate change to total strangers? That she cleaned peoples’ homes? That she expressed her love by working herself ragged at the expense of her personal health? Was it all worth the trouble? One can only hope.
- Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember (dailypost.wordpress.com)