Aurora Catholic Loses Fight to COVID
Coronavirus sadly completes vows for couple and strengthens family faith
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
May 7, 2020
AURORA—“In sickness, in health and until separated in death ... .” 
 
Sadly, Pedro Rodriguez and Martha Martinez fulfilled this part of the promises they made March 25, 39 years ago because of the coronavirus. 
 
Pedro was in the hospital on their wedding anniversary where he suffered two cardiac arrests triggered by complications of the coronavirus that was ravaging his body.
 
Pedro was admitted to Mercy Hospital in Aurora on March 20, with a simple upset stomach. That was the last day his loved ones had direct contact with him.
 
Due to his discomfort in previous days, Pedro’s family brought him to different emergency rooms three times in almost a week. 
 
He was “nauseated, feeling a little weak, the doctor had initially diagnosed a stomach flu,” said Ruth, one of his four daughters. Ruth said her father was prescribed medicine for his stomach and was sent back home. 
 
Pedro’s family never thought that the coronavirus was related to his illness, especially since sometimes he felt relieved. 
 
His “symptoms were very slight on Friday, on Sunday he was fine.” Then one day, “My dad fell. He said he had tripped,” she explained.
 
“I drove him to Mercy Hospital in Aurora. They did not let me in; the nurse said that only he could enter.” 
 
Quickly, x-ray results showed “early pneumonia in the lower lungs,” she said. Pedro then had trouble breathing and was “transferred to the intensive care unit,” where he was intubated. 
 
On March 24 the Rodriguez family received a phone call from the hospital.
 
“They told us that he had become very ill, that we should say goodbye to him; he was receiving oxygen,” Ruth said.
 
Several members of the family went to visit him, but could only see him through a glass.
 
Shortly after they arrived, the family was asked to leave because of the potential to put others at risk. Hospital personnel said they would keep the family updated on his condition.
 
Martha stayed as close to her husband as hospital regulations allowed. She also saw Pedro  only through a window in his hospital room, prayed, and asked her daughters to increase their prayers for him. 
 
“Pray because we need a miracle. Keep praying,” Martha told her daughters. 
Ruth said as she prayed for her father’s recovery she recalled the words that her father said to her mother some time ago: “If they have me connected to a machine, I will give you permission to disconnect me.” 
 
After speaking to God in prayer, Ruth said she understood God’s will had to be done, and she asked to have “the strength to also make my mom understand.”
 
Pedro did not recover and died on April 5.
 
At that point, when the Rodriguez family was suffering the pain of his death, the physical isolation and the restrictions on groups gathering, even at death, made the situation worse. 
 
Only 10 people could be admitted to the church, funeral home, and cemetery so the family had to agree and choose who could accompany Pedro to his resting place. 
 
In addition to Pedro, other members of the family were infected with the coronavirus and were confined in their homes. 
 
“My sister was on the second floor of the house and my brother-in-law and his 2-year-old daughter were downstairs. It was a difficult situation because the little girl wanted to see her mother and couldn’t,” Ruth explained.
 
Because of this, the family hopes to hold a large gathering to remember Pedro after restrictions are lifted.
 
Pedro is remembered for his dedication to the wellbeing of the community and the Church. 
 
He sang in the choir of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Aurora, where he was also a lector. Once a month he and his wife Martha prepared meals for the homeless at Hesed House in Aurora. 
 
The couple also participated in spiritual retreats such as Light of the World and Divine Mercy. “He was very good presenting topics during retreats,” said Martha. 
 
“He was generous. He supported Maryknoll and punctually gave his contribution to the church.” 
 
He liked to help seminarians because “he was in a seminary when he was young, and he knew the needs the seminarians have.”
 
Pedro’s oldest daughter, Cristina, said, “My dad always taught us to have faith in God. All the time he told us that we had to get closer to God who helps us fix all problems. He made it clear to us that the family must be united even if we are different. We must always speak and forgive. Now we are close more than ever.”
 
Father Timothy Mulcahey, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, describes Pedro as a person who was “always smiling. He was kind, and with good humor. He was a man of great faith who loved God and his brothers very much.”
 
“Without faith and prayer I could not have coped with this situation. God filled me with peace and acceptance,” Martha said.
 
Her family sees their mother as a strong woman who, despite also being infected with COVID-19 and a more common flu at the same time, has been resilient.
 
“This has being a very difficult experience but at the same time has brought us closer to our faith,” Ruth said.
 
It was also “an awakening for my sisters and for me. We had gotten away (from the  faith) a little with the work and school of the children, but the confinement forced us to stop and strengthen our faith,” Ruth said.

 

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