Sustained by grace in the end

December 1, 2020 -- Living City

Sustained by grace in the end
As her father lay dying from Covid, a daughter helped bring family reconciliation

In March, my 78-year-old father was admitted to the hospital. John, my youngest brother, had called me, explaining that Dad had a fever and was struggling to catch his breath.

When I told John I was coming, he asked me to wait. As an MRI technician, he knew that entering the hospital wasn’t going to be easy.

Some details are a little fuzzy now, but I clearly remember that I understood one thing: my fear and dread of my Dad contracting Covid was an expression of Jesus on the cross whom I had to love right away. I immediately called my Focolare community – my “second family” – to let them know this news and ask for their prayers.

Upon hospital admission, Dad was tested, put on the Covid floor and given the necessary treatment while waiting for his test results.

In the meantime, my brothers, sister and I decided to set up a chat. We’re usually very busy with our children, work and personal lives, so we rarely get to speak to each other. We thus agreed to do daily conference calls since, due to the quarantine, we couldn’t be together with our Dad.

As I remained in daily contact with my Focolare family, I felt God’s presence among us helping me step by step, especially in communicating with my siblings and keeping peace among us when decisions had to be made.

It was difficult not to be able to talk to Dad. This was particularly tough for my oldest brother Luis, who lived the farthest away and spent less time with our family.

When Dad’s final moment was drawing near, one of my Focolare friends proposed the idea of gathering together to say a Rosary over Zoom or by phone, in order to accompany my Dad till the end. I shared this idea with my family, and they were grateful, too.

Soon afterwards, John phoned and said that the nurse on duty for Dad that day was a friend of his and would sneak us in!  It seemed a miracle. Luis immediately offered to pick me up so we could drive there together. John had arranged for a priest to give Dad the final sacraments that morning. All was in place.

During our trip, Luis shared with me how important it was for him to reconcile with our father. He needed to talk to him and say goodbye, so both of them might have their healing. I encouraged him, saw his gratitude and felt his peace.

Upon arrival, John was waiting for us at the hospital door. The guards wouldn’t let us in; only one of us was allowed to enter with John.

I knew right away it was my moment to lose this chance to see Dad and give it to Luis. I assured him that it was the right thing to do and to give my love to Daddy for all of us. A special grace of the present moment sustained me, and I felt accompanied by Jesus on the cross and by Mary his mother, standing below.

I called my sister, and together we stayed in contact with John and Luis, who were allowed inside with Dad. We talked and shared stories about him; we even had a few laughs. It was such a peaceful and, strangely enough, joyful moment, as we recounted his life together.

At a certain moment, my brothers came to us. They explained that the managing nurse had seen them and asked them to leave, as they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. After much pleading, there was nothing they could do. John assured us that his nurse friend would be with Dad and call us as soon as Dad passed.

All of a sudden, peace left my soul. I felt like the floor had buckled beneath me.

Just at that moment, a dear Focolare friend texted me and assured me of her love and prayers for my father. I confided in her and told her of the darkness I felt. She reminded me that in unity, with Jesus in our midst, we are never alone.

It dawned on me that, indeed, my Dad was not alone, and I was certain that Mary our mother was with him to guide him home.

I shared this with my brothers and sisters. We all felt at peace. A few moments later, we received the call, and right away joy and gratitude for his life filled us.

I could tell that Luis, who had gotten to speak with him, was finally free of the hurt that kept him away all these years. The first thing Luis said was that we all had to make an effort to be together and share our lives more often. We began to make plans for future family moments we could share.

I knew in that instant that my Dad was in God’s grace, and that the miracle of unity as a family was God’s gift to us.

- Ada Alonso


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