The black ribbons on the wreath took customers by surprise, as they approached the entrance to Millie's Market. The sign was simple... "Millicent Marie Marcovitch passed away last night. The Market will be closed until further notice."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Mark, I know this is not the best time to discuss this, but I need to know what your plans are for the Market.”
“Ezra, I know you were Mom's attorney, and that you mean well, but can't this wait?”
“Mark, you know the store is not in the best area of town. Your mother, God rest her soul, was not very shrewd when it came to running the business. The place just barely made a profit, these past few years, since your father passed away. I think you should seriously consider closing the store.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mark Marcovitch stood beside the open casket, ready to meet people as they came to pay their last respects to his mother. He did not expect much of a turn out. There were so few family members left, and, over the years, many of his mother's friends had also passed away.
A shy young woman approached him.
“Real sorry about your mom. She was a good woman. She gave me a job when I got out of rehab... no one else would. Now, I'm straight and going to school. I wouldn't have been able to do it, if your mom had not taken a chance on me.”
An earnest young man grasped Mark's hand firmly.
“I run the homeless shelter, just up the road from Millie's Market. Thanks to your mother's generosity, I always had food to spare. She always told me if I want to feed the soul, I gotta feed the body first.”
A middle-aged woman, with three teenagers in tow, was next in line.
“I did not know, for a long time, that your mother owned the store. You know, she always ran the cash register. I guess working checkout was her way of getting to know her customers.”
One of the teenagers spoke up...
“Yeah, Miss Millie was pretty cool for an old lady... um...sorry. I mean... she'd talk to us, when she checked us out, and ask about school and everything... it was like she really cared.”
Mark could not believe the number of lives that had been touched through his mother's checkout line. Dozens of people came by with similar stories.
“She was a good listener.”
"She encouraged me when I was down.”
“She didn't even make me put stuff back when I didn't quite have enough money."
“She took time to pray with me when I was upset.”
“She always donated cookies to the Vacation Bible School.”
“She always donated bags of candy to the Fall Festival. Lots of kids got saved.”
“She knew everyone by name.”
“She was my friend.”
“She was like family.”
“She didn't just tell you she cared... she showed you.”
“The store won't be the same without her.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Ezra... Millie's Market stays open.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Several days after the funeral, Millie's Market re-opened. A picture of Millie hung prominently over the cash register. A new face greeted customers as they checked out.
“Hi, I'm Mark... what can I do to help you today?”
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