Editorial: Outpouring of support for family who lost 5 in fire shows true meaning of community

  • Juan Manuel Espinosa is consoled at the grave site in All Saints Cemetery after services for his family of five who all died in a house fire in Des Plaines.

      Juan Manuel Espinosa is consoled at the grave site in All Saints Cemetery after services for his family of five who all died in a house fire in Des Plaines. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 2/11/2021 8:49 AM

The enormity of grief is almost impossible to comprehend.

A mother and her four young daughters perish together in a Jan. 27 fire in their Des Plaines home.


How do father and husband Juan Manuel Espinosa and his extended family possibly begin to heal from such devastating loss? How can they ever make sense of it all?

It starts with community -- the love and assistance of others.

The white caskets of Cithlaly Zamudio and her daughters -- Grace Espinosa, 1, Allison Espinosa, 3, Genesis Espinosa, 5, and Renata Espinosa, 6 -- were lined up Wednesday morning at the Chapel of St. Joseph on the grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines for a funeral service.

But they were not alone.

About 100 people showed up in person to mourn with the family, clustered in family groups and masked against the bitter cold as much as to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But they were not alone.

Hundreds more attended virtually by watching the proceedings on YouTube or the church's website.

Others tuned in from Guanajuato, Mexico, where Zamudio grew up.

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Cardinal Blaise Cupich and the Rev. Esequiel Sanchez from Our Lady of Guadalupe presided over the Mass. Cupich offered family members rosaries he brought back from Rome from Pope Francis.

But they were not alone.

To date, more than $85,000 has been contributed through a GoFundMe site -- $35,000 more than the fundraising goal.

Local businesses covered the costs of the services. The G.L. Hills Funeral Home in Des Plaines donated all its services and the five caskets.

After receiving a call from the family, funeral director Graham Hills told our James Kane, "Right away I told them we would take care of everything, no charge. I just couldn't put it in my mind to ask them for anything."

Catholic Charities donated the burial plots at the nearby All Saints Cemetery. Pesche's Flowers and North Suburban Flower Co. in Des Plaines donated flowers. The Northlake Funeral Home and Dreschler Brown and Williams in Oak Park provided extra hearses and funeral directors.

After nearly a year of closing ourselves off to others in one way or another because of the COVID-19 and over political differences, it's heartening to see community coalesce in such a way to help lessen the pain of a family so terribly torn apart.

It is our hope that the Espinosa family, in their darkest hours ahead, takes comfort in this and always remembers they're not alone. And may all of us have similar comfort in the knowledge that in times of greatest tribulation, a compassionate and supportive community stands ready to get us through.

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