From Grace’s Facebook post:
My handsome father, God rest his soul, passed away peacefully on January 5th, 2020 in my mother and brother’s embrace. It was swift. These days that is the best we can ask for under the circumstances and I am so incredibly grateful for the doctor that was able to make that happen. I heard stories from the nurses and chaplain who knew him during his stay at Scripps Memorial Encinitas. He battled COVID pneumonia for a hard 3 weeks. I know he kept going every single day because he just loved us so much.
We called him every morning to tell him we were praying all day for him, I would pray when I woke so many times at night. I would text him during the day even though I knew he probably wouldn’t be able to reply, just so he had pictures and messages to read. We called him every night at bedtime to pray novenas and rosaries with him, my mom and brother. He would just leave the phone by his side even when nurses or doctors came in to check on him. My mom, brother and I would cry every night and moments throughout the day. We did this for nearly 3 weeks.
On Christmas morning, we video called him and my mom to share the news that we were expecting a 4th baby. That same day, I started bleeding. I hoped it was nothing serious, but I did end up miscarrying. I kept that secret from him because I didn’t want anything to stress him out, it was hard enough on him. The following Monday, it was confirmed gone. We named this baby Minias, after St. Minias of Florence.
We were so hopeful, my dad showed just small bits of improvement every few days, but then the 3rd week, he stopped improving. He was doing everything they said would help him heal, and I could see it in his face he was tired but determined to come home to us. Then on Saturday, after Jason and I had left St. Margaret’s for confession and praying for him at the church, I called him at about 5:30 to let him know that the doctor said they were going to stop liquids again to see if that helps with his oxygenation levels. I told him I know it’s hard dad, but you do so much better on the days after you fast, I know you can do it. He then he said he had to go because they were going to flip him to be on his stomach to help with his breathing, and I said ok, I love you dad, I’ll talk to you later. That was the last call we ever had. Thank God those were my last words to him.
That day, my friend Caitlin also took me to adoration and lunch to help me grieve my loss. I had not stopped to grieve the loss of our baby, and it intensified the pain of my father being in the hospital. The physical pain of the miscarriage was gone, but was left with so much emotional emptiness that I had pushed aside to focus on my dad. I know he wouldn’t have wanted that for me.
Sunday morning, dad’s condition was another “wait and see” type of day, but he developed a fever and they were going to culture his lungs to find out what kind of infection. I oddly found relief in this in that maybe this is just what’s been stalling his recovery and they can finally treat it with something different. It felt like an endless cycle of starting and stopping liquids to see any improvement. Monday morning was another “wait and see” day to see if the culture came back with anything and if the broad spectrum antibiotic had any effect. By this point, I felt the need to ask for the chaplain to send a priest down for Anointing of the Sick.
Monday evening, as we were getting ready for dinner, I got the call from the doctor that he had gotten worse. He gave us our 3 options of care from this point and I prayed for the strength to call my brother and mom. We were in such disbelief, still praying for a miracle but knew I needed to prepare for this and wanted to take the opportunity to visit even if he was going to come home because it had been 3 long weeks without him. I called back the doctor to let him know we wanted to continue current care and take it day by day, and to also call the priest back for Last Rites. I ached to know if after 3 weeks of praying everyday with him, if his heart had opened back up to Jesus. We dropped everything we were doing, my dear friend Veronica sent her daughter to come watch our kids, gave me a squeeze and off we went to see my mom and brother.
In disbelief, we managed to all get ourselves together to go see dad. We were allowed 2 at a time to go see him behind the door, which had a large window. Just me, my mom and brother. We took turns to be with my mom. Her heart ached so crushingly and everyone on the floor could feel it themselves. I took that time to talk to nurses on the floor, to find out what it was like caring for my dad. The charmer he is, he stole everyone’s hearts. They also could not believe that this could be it, he was so strong, and did everything he was told would improve his chances of survival. Sometimes grumpily, but also without hesitation out of his love for us.
No one can anticipate the anguish and sorrow of having to think about the end of life situation for their parent or any loved one. Seeing him behind the glass, so peacefully and comfortably sleeping, my mother broken, I knew it was time to accept that Our Merciful and Loving Lord was calling him home. This whole thing wasn’t fair, but neither is allowing him to suffer so silently and prolonging my beautiful mother’s grief. We decided to wait and see how he did through the night before making any changes to his care. I asked the nurse to squeeze his hand for me to let him know we were there. She did it so lovingly, it made my heart burst bittersweetly.
Stubborn as he thankfully is, he made it through the night. We hoped and prayed that a miracle showed he was healing, but it was not the case. At about noon, the doctor called with his daily update. He remained stable, but continuing to decline. My friend Kristen had been answering all my medical questions, and so I was prepared to ask about the process of compassionate extubation. I begged God for the strength to have this conversation with my family. Informed the doctor we would like to come for a visit, and to please prepare my handsome father for his final moments with my family. How incredible, 2 visits to my dad when anyone would be so lucky to have just one.
I was able to talk to the hospital chaplain. Through tears, I asked him if he thought my father had opened himself to Jesus. He told me how he had met my father a few times through the window and talked to him on the phone and prayed with him. He said that my dad seemed eager to do so. He reminded me that our God is loving and merciful. That brought me so much peace to know that he likely would’ve wanted the Sacraments given to him before he passed, and as his daughter who ached for his return to his faith in God, I felt complete in knowing I did everything I could to prepare his soul for Heaven.
This visit was hard, but also filled us in a way I can’t describe. I have photos of his last moments. My brother talked to him for me when he went in and I am so proud of how he managed himself and my mother through the most painful time in our life. I cannot believe people are going through this without being able to see their loved one in their final hour. It’s not the miracle my mother wanted, but I find it to be the one granted to us.
When it was all over, I thanked everyone for tending to my dad and giving him a family to count on in our absence. The nurses and chaplain told me of all the people who prayed with and for him. I thanked the chaplain for his ministry and adding to my comfort, and the entire palliative care team for being there for us and providing us so many resources. I thanked the doctor and nurses for their work and for being there for us, I know it must be tough to have to do this day after day, in a time when every single patient is isolated for their entire stay. I am anxious to send them thank you notes and gifts for making my dad feel at home.
We stayed in the parking lot for quite some time before going to pick up the kids, my husband so distraught that he couldn’t be there for me. It is because of my dad that I have this amazing husband who cares for me so deeply the way he cared for my mom. I talked to my aunts and my cousins Raina and JR, who are grieving as heavily as I am. He was their dad too. I felt less and less alone knowing my cousins shared the sharp pain I felt.
As tragic as it is to experience a miscarriage and the loss of my dad within a matter of a couple weeks of each other, I am so comforted to know that my miscarriage had purpose. My baby was made to greet my father in Heaven. If you know my dad, you know that he loves everyone, but most especially babies and children. Whenever I feel that emptiness all over, I picture my dad running to see my sweet baby. What joy it brings me to know that my father will be the first to see our baby Minias’ face.
If you read this whole post, thank you for taking the time and for loving us. I will be gushing about how wonderful my dad is for a while to help me grieve, and I will be asking for stories and pictures of him so I can put a book together that I can read and look at over and over again. Please send any stories or pictures to:
Rolando.memories [at] gmail [dot] com
Thank you to everyone who has sent us messages, cards and flowers, and all our friends and family stepping into action to help us take the next steps for this process and just get through these next few days. I am blown away by all your love and support, and all the people who were touched by my dad’s life. He was not only my father, but a father to many others who needed it.
All funds will go to funeral costs and any bills my mom will need to cover through the end of January. Our family is thankful for any help we can get! We would also appreciate prayers for our family and for my dad’s soul.