On a fall day in 1981, Ricardo Ramirez accepted an offer to become a bishop in San Antonio, Texas.
At StoryCorps, he remembered the dozens of phone calls he made that day. One of the first was to his grandmother Panchita Espitia.
Click here for the transcript.
Well, two or three days before the party, my grandmother arrives. I ask, “What have you been doing lately?” And she said, “I’ve been having a good time.”
“Wow, what do you do at 90 years old to have a good time?”
She says, “Oh son, I have been going to funerals.”
I said, “You have been having a good time at funerals?”
“Oh yes. Yes, we drink coffee, we tell stories, we meet old friends—it’s wonderful. We have a great time.”
I said, “Grandma, how can you have a good time when somebody dies?”
She looked at me, straight into my eyes. And she was serious, almost scolding me, and she says, “Son, haven’t you learned yet that it is a privilege to die.”
In all my years of study, in theology and listening to sermons, I had never quite heard it that way. A few weeks later, she had that privilege.
She was in the hospital, recovering from a heart attack, but we knew she probably wouldn’t make it at her age. And she kept repeating, like a mantra, “Solo quiero ver a Dios, I just want to see the face of God.”
That was the last thing I ever heard her say, and then she died two days later.
When she died, she was singing songs from catechism. [Sings] “Al cielo, I want to go to heaven, I want to go to heaven …” Songs from childhood.
And she died singing. She was just an amazing woman. I’ll never forget Panchita.