I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old when my parents took me to visit my third cousin, Anthony. On the way to the house, I had some concerns because my parents told me that Anthony was “very sick.” When we arrived, I was startled to see his shaved head. I just wasn’t sure how to act. He quickly put me at ease with his gregarious personality and friendly nature. He presented me with Mexican jumping beans, which amused the two of us for hours. Two weeks after my visit, Anthony passed away. His younger sister, Adrian, says she “saw him floating up to heaven.”

The following year, Katherine, a middle-aged, kind and gentle woman who worked at the nursery school in which my family and I lived, gave me a Christmas present of a beautiful ceramic statue of praying hands with the “Serenity Prayer” etched on its base. Even at 6, I was able to appreciate her generosity and thoughtfulness, especially considering she was a person of meager means. Soon after receiving her gift, I noticed that Katherine stopped coming to work at the nursery. After several inquiries, my mother gently informed me that she had “passed.”

The nursery school abutted a repair shop where workers could be seen diligently fixing vehicles and other machinery. I remember even seeing them move large drums of oil. One day, when I was 6, the nursery students and I were outside playing when one of the drums exploded and killed a workman who we all knew and liked. I don’t remember his name, but I do recall being told he was two days from retiring.

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