A ways before Cell Phones were invented I sold funeral insurance. A typical day at the office was rarely typical. Take one day when I went to visit Maria. It was a day like thousands of summer days in Central California, sunny. I had made four sales by early afternoon and nothing would get me down.
Maria was from Mexico but spoke English very well. She escorted me politely in to the kitchen of her very clean apartment. She began to tell me why she needed to see me. Maria was a recent immigrant from Mexico. Most of her family lived in Mexico. Maria had moved to the United States and in Central California about a year earlier with her daughter and her father. She was 26 years old. She had a daughter who was 13. When she got to this point in the story her father entered the room. He was a ruggedly handsome man about 6' tall. He appeared to be in his 50s. He had a thick mustache. His clothes were all black. He didn't speak English but the scowl he gave me communicated the message "Don't mess with me" quite fluently.
Though Maria had entered California legally she was very poor. She and her father were on welfare. She was taking a class to be a Nurses Aid. She was two months from finishing her class. She had a job waiting for her when she finished.
Maria began to tell me about a feud that started down in Mexico between her family and a family just a few miles from their home. She told me that in a year, eight men and women had died in her family. The ones who died included Maria's brother, sister and her Father's brother. She told me that she was afraid she would die too, even though she was so young. She was terrified that when she died her body would be cremated. She felt like she had to be buried in a coffin. She told me her first purchase from her first paycheck had to be funeral insurance.
Although she did not have any money to buy insurance just then, she still wanted to do something to get things started. We filled out the application and dated it for 10 weeks from my visit, as that was when she would get her first paycheck. We scheduled an appointment for September 20th at 2:00 P.M. All I would have to do was to take a check from her and she would have insurance.
There was something about her that made her easy to like. By the time my visit was over I was friends with her. I told her that I would call her every few days or so to check on her. For the next 10 weeks I did just that. As she got closer to finishing her class, she got more and more excited about starting a new job. She was also more and more concerned about her father. She told me he was speaking to her and her daughter less and less and was just sitting on a kitchen chair staring at the walls for hours on end. We always ended our conversations with Maria saying "I will see you September 20th at 2:00 P.M. Don't be late" and she would laugh.
I called her the evening of September 19th. She answered the telephone with "Of course I am expecting you tomorrow. Tomorrow is September 20th. Be here at 2:00 P.M. Don't be late." I laughed and asked her what would happen if I arrived early. She told me he father would let me in. There was a pause and she thanked me for being a good friend. She told me how happy she was for the first time in a long time, how much it meant for her to be able to help people and how relieved she will be when she had insurance. She told me having insurance would mean that there was no way possible for them to cremate her when she dies.
September 20th was the best day of my sales career. I made 12 sales by 1:30. In addition to Maria I had 4 more sales calls on schedule. By 1:35 it looked like my last sales call was going to make me about 10 minutes late for Maria. Since this was before Cell Phones I had to borrow a telephone at my new client's home to call Maria so that she would know I would be late. Between 1:40 and 2:00 I tried to call Maria 3 times but there was no answer. I was worried there must be something wrong. I left my new client's home at 2:10 P.M. I had a feeling I better call first so found a pay telephone and tried 4 more times. By 2:35 I decided to just to drive over to Maria's home. I felt that something must have happened.
I just started the car and I turned on the radio when I heard that two bodies were found and Maria's address. I double checked Maria's address. This was the same address. The radio had another news bulletin. The 13 year old daughter of one of the two victims found the bodies. Five minutes later another news bulletin broke in and the newscaster said that deaths appeared to be a murder suicide. The newscaster said that a man in his mid 50s shot his daughter to death as she got home from work. He then shot himself to death. He said the time of the shootings was 2:00 P.M. for the lady and 2:02 for the man. I missed my execution time.
My knees grew weak and I began to shake. I called my wife to explain what had happened. I asked her to call my other appointments and cancel them as I was too shook up to do anything more than pray. When Maria died she was on welfare in California. Maria was cremated. Maria was terrified of being cremated. In a year Maria's family had 10 people die, Maria, her father, her sister, her brother, her father's brother were all among the dead.