From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

Beyond the Grave

I can clearly remember the happy weekends my family and I spent at my abuelita Susana’s apartment in the South Bronx. We are a big Dominican family and loved getting together in my grandmother’s home. As soon as you walked in, you would be enveloped in the delicious smells coming from the kitchen. You could practically taste the rice, beans and pernil in the air. If one of her five grandchildren had a birthday, there’d be a freshly baked cake with icing and sprinkles on the dining-room table. If it was Easter Sunday, you could count on getting a huge Easter basket filled with toys, plush teddy bears and lots of candy. As an eight-year-old child, going to her home was magical. She was a great cook and homemaker, but an even greater human being.

She had a calm and welcoming demeanor that could put anyone at ease. She was warm and nurturing, always caring for others, but not enough for herself. We don’t know when she was diagnosed with lung cancer, but when we found out it was too late. She died the same year she told the family of her illness. By then, all we could do was comfort her and each other and enjoy what little time we had left together. She died in the hospital on December 26, 1989, five days after her sixty-second birthday.

We all missed her dearly. Family and close friends crammed into her apartment for a velorio, to pray for her and mourn her loss. That was the first and only time I ever saw my father cry. Tex didn’t grieve aloud as everyone else. Silent tears streamed down his face, but I knew inside he was raging with grief. I understood that she had died, but, at such a young age, I couldn’t fully grasp the impact of a loved one’s death.

A couple of months after her death, I became very sick with a respiratory illness that just wouldn’t go away. My mother was worried and prayed for my health.

One night she dreamt of my grandmother. In her dream, my grandmother rang the doorbell of our apartment. My mother opened the door in surprise.

“Susana, what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here. You’re dead.”

“I didn’t come to see you,” Susana said. “I’m here to see Yahaira.”

She went past my mother, entered my bedroom and closed the door behind her.

The next day I approached my mom in the living room.

“Mami, can I have a candle?”

“Why do you want a candle, Yary?” My mother frowned.

“It’s for Abuelita Susana. I want to pray for her.”

My mother remembered her dream from the night before and agreed to buy me the candle. Within the week, my respiratory illness had disappeared.

Since then I have maintained my “special bond” with my abuelita. Every once in a while, I make sure to light a candle in her name and pray. When I reach out to her in my time of need, I feel her presence and her love. It’s been fifteen years since her death, and still, it comforts me to know that she can hear me and feel my love for her.

My mother retells this story every time the family gets together. For us, it’s proof that family, love and faith know no limits. Love has no boundaries and can be felt across distance and time. Even from beyond the grave.

Yahaira Lawrence

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