When I heard what transpired at the Waynedale Kroger on Dec. 7, I was sick to my stomach. When Perla Nieto’s photo was shown on TV, I stopped short. I rarely shop at this Kroger, preferring the Southgate one with its Chase Bank, Dollar Tree, and Salvation Army stores, but I knew Perla, not by name but by her actions. She was always bustling around, scanning my coupons, making sure everyone was working as a team, and above all: Always smiling and helpful. My friend Herb and I couldn’t attend the evening vigil at Kroger, but we attended her visitation and funeral. At the Divine Mercy Funeral Home, the parking lot was packed with cars even before the visitation hours began. There were so many people waiting to express their sense of loss at her sudden and brutal passing to her family. Kroger customers, co-workers past and present, first responders, neighbors, and friends all waiting to let the family know how they knew Perla, what she had done for them, and the empty place she left behind. Little stories were shared that the family wasn’t even aware of but knew they had to be true because it was “just like something Perla would do.” One of my quilt customers, Ravina, asked me to share with her family how from checking her driver’s license, Perla informed her they shared the same birthdate- September 28. From then on Ravina made certain she went to Kroger on her birthday to see if she could take Perla by surprise and shout “Happy Birthday” before Perla did. Not anymore. Perla looked beautiful and at peace.
The Mass of Christian Burial was held at St. Peter’s Catholic Church officiated by Father Patrick Hake and was also well attended. The family walked Perla’s casket down the aisle, including her elderly mother in her wheelchair, her face etched with grief. I couldn’t help but sob. Father Hake’s homily was very thought-provoking. He didn’t mince words. Father spoke of Perla’s death, and he didn’t sugar-coat it. He called it for what it was: Murder. He went on to say that when a senseless tragedy happens, people often ask “How could God allow this to happen,” in a sense blaming God for such unspeakable evil. Father Hake reminded us that God gave us free will. That we can follow His Word and live our lives by his commandments or choose not to. In conclusion, Father Hake reminded us how pearls are made inside of oysters. Pearls are formed when a bit of food or a grain of sand gets stuck inside and to protect itself, the oyster secretes the substances aragonite (a mineral) and conchiolin (a protein) which are the same substances it secretes to form its shell. The composite of these two substances is nacre or mother-of-pearl. The layers are deposited around the irritant, and it grows over time, forming the pearl. Father Hake showed us how the community came together through the ugliness of Perla’s murder and surrounded the ugliness with love and compassion.
There is a quilt block called the Mexican Star. When I viewed the pattern, I thought of Perla and her Hispanic culture and decided to create and quilt a block of it featuring red, green, blue, and yellow. The design is rather complicated, and it isn’t completed, but when it’s finished, I hope it gives her family a sense of peace. God bless all our Waynedale News family who did so much to assist Perla’s family and especially prayed for her family during this difficult time.
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts (Restoration Studio and Vintage Fabric Shop). If you have a quilt or other textile story you’d like to share, contact her at 260-515-9446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The fundraiser for Perla’s family will close on Friday, January 26. See details at: gofund.me/1f1e4b11