There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would have gladly eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. (Luke 16:19-21)
Oscar Francisco Romero arrived at Amigos de Jesus as Lazarus and spent the last 48 days of his life experiencing what Lazarus was given in heaven: comfort, the care of angels, love and a life worth living.
Oscarito was brought to us on April 26 by the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters who live the life laid out for them by Mother Teresa to care for the poorest of the poor. They asked us to provide a permanent home for Oscarito because they knew that we would become his family for the rest of his life and would provide him with a level of care they were not able to provide. He had been left for dead at an international border crossing and found in March of this year. At approximately 7 years old he weighed less than 20 pounds, and dragged his emaciated body through garbage, filth, flies and dogs in search of scraps. He was living a life worse than that of a stray dog. No one had ever bothered to get Oscarito a birth certificate or medical care. He had never felt love. After the Sisters rescued Oscarito he spent a month in a run-down public hospital fighting for his life. With nowhere to go upon release, we received a phone call at 9:00 PM asking if we could please take him first thing in the morning. So the next day Oscar came home to Amigos de Jesus.
Amigos de Jesus undoubtedly changed Oscarito’s life. He lived his last days clean and safe, with a balanced and nutritious diet, quality medical care, a special toy he loved, a jogging stroller he used to explore our rough terrain, and a bed of his own for sleeping. More importantly, however, Oscarito was cared for and loved. He was so very loved and he returned the love we gave him in abundance in spite of the fact that he only knew love for 48 days.
Though Oscarito’s life may have been changed by Amigos de Jesus, he changed ours in so many ways and changed all of us for the better.
Oscarito changed us as he taught us to never be the rich man in Jesus speaks about in the Gospel according to St. Luke. We were afraid to bring Oscarito to Amigos de Jesus because we’ve never had a child so sick, so disabled, so dependent for every little thing, and with so many medical needs. We wondered if we could ignore his needs as we thought there must be someone else who could do a better job, or a place that was better equipped. But Honduras is a place of few resources for special children like Oscarito and we are here to be friends of Jesus so we welcomed him home.
Oscarito changed David, one of our older children who will start University this year. David, always a slightly immature young man lacking in direction but with a heart of gold, became Oscarito’s primary caregiver. We needed someone to look out for Oscarito immediately and our madrinas, padrinos and volunteers were already stretched too far to be able to give Oscarito the one on one care he needed. The two of them spent their days going for walks with David pushing the jogging stroller, listening to music together, and being in each other’s presence. David kept an alarm set to go off every three hours to make sure Oscar’s meals were always on time. He took it upon himself to make sure Oscarito didn’t get sores from being in one position for too long, was protected from the sun, and was stimulated and engaged. He delighted in every small step Oscarito made- smiling and laughing, holding his own water bottle, climbing out of his stroller, finding ways to communicate his needs. He worried relentlessly that Oscarito’s seizure medications were too strong, or that he wasn’t gaining weight quickly enough. He lost sleep over his worries about Oscarito. At 18 years old, David became Oscarito’s father and demonstrated a love and maturity David himself didn’t imagine he was capable of.
Oscarito changed our children and taught them about gifts and blessings. Meeting him, knowing him, seeing him lose his fears and begin to smile for the first time in his life showed our children- all of whom have been through unimaginably difficult and inhumane situations in their short lives- that life is a gift, that there is always something to smile about and that we all have blessings to count. Some of our most troubled and broken children poured love into Oscarito. In their love and care for Oscarito they have lived the gospel: “for whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me.” (Mt 25:40) For many it was the first time they understood that they are called to use their gifts to minister to others and were able to truly experience giving unconditional love.
Each member of the Amigos de Jesus family has a story about how Oscarito has changed our lives for the better. We are crying tears of pain that we have not had enough time to spend with Oscarito here on earth. We share stories, we remember, we support each other and we give thanks. All of us are so very grateful for the opportunity to have loved and to be changed by Oscarito, our little boy who is gone far too soon.
Oscarito may have spent most of his life as Lazarus but he spent the last 48 days as a son, a brother, a friend, and someone who was finally able to experience the love and joy he is now experiencing in heaven. He touched more hearts and impacted more lives in 48 days than most of us do in a lifetime.
Praise God for Oscarito, and may our sweet, tough, amazing little child be truly welcomed into heaven where we now have a guardian angel forever. We miss you Oscar Francisco Romero, thank you for changing our lives. You are so loved.