2022 is the year when everything changed. Some are calling it the “New Normal,” but there is nothing normal about social distancing from your own mother. It was May 2022, Mother’s Day, when I learned just how serious my mom’s pulmonary fibrosis had progressed. The medication she was taking had led to her dramatic weight loss. I wanted to do more for her, but I knew each time I saw her that I was putting her at risk from COVID-19. That hurt me terribly, especially during her final days. My mother told me over the phone that she was tired of fighting the illness. I just didn’t want to accept what she was telling me. However, I had a conversation with a friar that helped me put it all into perspective. He told me, “Leo, are you listening to your mother? She is telling you that she is tired, what can you do to help her rest? I know that we live in a world that values quantity – How many more years can I have my mother? How about focusing on quality? How will I spend the moments I have with my mother? How will she live out these next few weeks, months, year?”
Since this friar was living out of town, he recommended that I meet with a friar who could physically be present and offer prayers and blessings. Along with my mother being sick, my partner and I had just moved into a new house, which added to the stress and emotion. With all the tension of my mother’s health, I felt that we needed our home blessed. This is how we met friar Andy Martinez, OFM Conv. He was recommended by one of his brothers in community and the next day, friar Andy was at our doorstep. He was ready to provide us the house blessing that we sought. Immediately, we felt at peace. From that point on, our friendship grew. That is why, when my mother’s condition worsened and we sought for peace, friar Andy was one of the first people that came to my mind. I knew he could give my mother the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. She seemed to get better, and being present when friar Andy anointed my mother, brought us and my mom a sense of peace.
Eventually my mom had to be admitted to the ER, where we discovered she had contracted pneumonia. Two days later, she went into cardiac arrest and was put on life support. After I finally accepted the outcome, I knew we needed to reach out once again to friar Andy. Without any hesitation, friar Andy met us in the ICU where he administered the Anointing of the Sick once again for my mother. He brought to us a much-needed sense of calm and brought me peace in a time of darkness, in a time where I knew I had to be present and witness my mother depart from our earthly home. My mom passed shortly thereafter.
Friar Andy has remained a constant in our lives. Not only did he help arrange the Mass of Christian Burial for my mother, but he also presided over it.
Ever since then, we have not missed a Sunday Mass. It is as if each of his homilies takes me back to that day in the ICU. Friar Andy didn’t care that I wasn’t one of his parishioners. He didn’t make an issue about my significant other. He saw us as a family suffering the pain of losing a mother and did what he could do to ease the pain. For that, I will be eternally grateful to the Franciscan Friars Conventual whom I witnessed sharing their unconditional love and hope.