My dear friend and indefatigable supporter, Nelmi Artiaga, died last Monday. From what, no one really knows. She had been fighting chronic illness of some sort or another and had been in and out of the hospital for the past year. I am told that this past month she lost a tremendous amount of weight, bled profusely from random orifices and simply stopped eating. Nelmi leaves behind 4 children, 3 of whom are under the age of 15, and a serious void in the Los Laureles community. Always aglow with joy, always a servant, always eager to chat - Nelmi was dearly loved by everyone in the community and people there tell me that already the place seems a little deader without her laughter and quick wit. For my part, I balled when I got the call from her sister last week. Nelmi was one of the first adults to befriend me and her friendship was rock-solid; when I lived in the community she would stop by the house occasionally just to check-up on me, when ugly and false rumors once surfaced she stamped them out and this past year, and in spite of her failing health, she called me regularly to make sure that I was doing well and still intent on returning to Los Laureles. Nelmi was one of the adults I turned to when I needed "grown-up help" with certain projects; I remember specifically when a young, homeless boy named Jeffrey was dying from poison it was she that offered to help watch him in the hospital with me 24/7 and then helped with the funeral arrangements later on. There was a period of time during my year in the community that I couldn't afford to feed all of the kids that were living with me; Nelmi, and without my asking, took it upon herself to set aside food from her make-shift stand every Sunday night and deliver it to my door so that the kids could eat a decent meal. Even though she was only two years my senior she called me her nephew and treated me as such; when I came back for a visit this past January she roused herself and prepared a feast in my honor, whenever I might pass her in the community she would bless me, and she asked me to be her youngest daughter's godfather. More than all of that though, I simply enjoyed being with her; she was a joy to talk to, always with a funny story, a word of encouragement or a strong correction to set me straight. I am heartbroken over the loss of my aunt - I know she's in a place with no pain and great joy, that she's with her Lord; I just wasn't ready to see her go quite so soon.
Nelmi with two of her four children; Naomi and Abel