Recently, I answered one of the toughest questions ever asked by a great but distraught mom: “Where do you think Nick is?”
Sunday afternoon, Jan 28, 2018, Nick was riding in the family’s car, apparently asleep,
and the car launched 60 feet off the freeway and came to rest upside down on its roof.
Later in the week, I called Nick’s mom, Patty to get more of the details. Our family of 11 has long known this family of 9. Mom and dad generously adopted all of their amazing kids with the youngest now a teen. I saw Dad in the hospital, from which he is now out, but faces serious re-hab for quite a while; the trauma in the family will need recuperative help a lot longer, including the driver who was one of the kids.
Nick did not survive the freeway launch.
A friend set up a GoFundMe page: (https://www.gofundme.com/duartefamilyemergencyfund)
Be generous if you can and pray for the family you must.
With the site: “On January 28th, 2018, tragedy struck the Duarte Family. On their way home from attending mass at Our Lady of the Pillar in Santa Ana, Freddy, Joseph, Nicholas, and their Dad, Fred, were involved in a tragic car accident.
Nicholas Duarte, only 22 years old, unfortunately did not survive the accident. Fred (their father) suffered major injuries, is hospitalized and will have to continue his healing at a re-hab facility. Freddy and Joseph are traumatized and need help too.
For those of you who know the Duarte Family, you know what an amazing, tight knit, God loving family they are. Fred and Patty adopted all 9 of their kids and have given each one a loving, caring and faith filled home to grow up in.
Losing Nick has been so incredibly painful.
To know Nick was to love him! Nick was autistic, yet despite his disability, he always had a smile on his face and was always willing to help anyone in need. He also had a part time job with UPS and really enjoyed working there and had high hopes and dreams of continuing his career with them. He also had the dream of one day becoming a Bounty Hunter.
I have been friends with the Duarte’s since I was 12. We lived in the same neighborhood for many years until the Duarte’s lost their home and had to move. But that didn’t stop us from remaining friends!I recently had Nick help at a tennis tournament I was working at. He did a fantastic job and charmed everyone he came in contact with!
Nick, Freddy, Joseph and I kept in touch and saw each other all the time. They are my second family.
I have set up this Go Fund Me page to help with the unexpected funeral costs and for the extra medical costs that the family will incur with their Dad’s injuries.
Please, if you can help in any way. Even $1 will add up. Those of us that know the Duarte Family, know that if this tragedy had struck a family they knew, they would be the first ones to help out.”
“Where do you think Nick is?”. Fair question; another question about another Nicholas appeared in the NY Sun on September 12, 1897:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
Contemplating what to say to Mrs. Duarte, i had pulled over to the side of the road. I asked her what had happened, having pieced some of the story from my daughter, Bri’s, account earlier in the day.
I asked Patty where had they been and where was Nick at the time. Nick had just left Our Lady of the Pillar in Santa Ana and was heading to Grand Terrace in San Bernardino county. The boys left in one car while mom and some of the girls helped with Confirmation prep after Mass. The Duartes had lost their beautiful home in Santa Ana a few years ago and just bought their current, where they could afford, in San Bernardino county. This hour drive each way was a common routine.
They were still volunteering and running the confirmation program at Pilar, despite the hour drive. This is the kind of family that makes America great and God and His mom smile broadly.
I asked Patty “what had he just done?” She told me Nick had served on the altar at Mass. Here’s a 22 year old boy now man, autism just adding to his charm, who had just served the Lord, consumed the Lord in the Eucharist and was asleep in a car upon impact. “Patty, I have no doubt, Nick is in heaven.”
Consolation without the truth is empty. Everyone reading this should take heed of the warning: we only have 525,600 minutes in each year, yet we do NOT know the last minute, let alone the last year or second, we have. ONLY the Alpha and the Omega, Jesus our Saviour, believing in Him guarantees us a good spot forever and beyond. We MUST be prepared, at any given moment, to do as Paul pointed out “Absent…
I told Patty he woke up to Jesus; maybe Mary welcomed him home. Imagine that, taking a nap riding in the car and waking up to heaven. I also suggested my wife, Donna or Cathy (Lipsky), two moms who knew him, may have been there to welcome him.
All the super smart theologizing whiz bang theo intelligentia aside, we don’t have all the answers but the framework is very clear: Believing in the Son of God, Jesus, the true Xavier (not our sad California SecState) of the world, is how we attain HEAVEN.
2 Corinthians chapter 5, starting at verse six puts it beautifully:
“So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,7for we walk by faith, not by sight.8Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.e9Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.10For we must all appear* before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”
Paul was pretty specific, even in the New American translation.
The wise 1897 editor of the Sun responded to Virginia’s small minded friends:
“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.”
…and compared to the omniscient, omnipotent eternal Trinity Whom has ALWAYS existed. As the NY Sun logo says it, “It (the sun) shines for all”
When Patty asked, I hesitated for only a nanosecond. I told her I don’t say this flippantly or to console with syrupy “of course he’s in a better place”. TOO MANY people die today who have denied God, who deny Jesus is God or that God exists. It ISN”T true that everyone goes to heaven or purgatory. Some buy their eternal debit card to hell.
As a father of 11, I worry (sorry St Pio!) that all my 11, their spouses and children, make it to heaven. Same with many of my sibs who think there is a grand canyon wide path to the happy eternal returns. There isn’t. Yes, I know more will make it than we know; many we think should be there, won’t.
Frankly, we womanify or andromorphize God, believe God loves soooo much that everyone will be in heaven even though He’s given us the freedom to say No and die. Forever.
He is a just God that believes US at OUR word; we need to do the same: Believe HIM! He went through a lot of trouble to tell us Whom He is and for the Father’s Son to die that we might live. I know it’s hard sometimes to understand let alone believe.
Like Virginia’s editor, we are surrounded by billions of 100 trillion celled entities called woman or man, humans that are autonomous living miracles surrounded by miracles. We didn’t just evolve from primordial soup; believing this is simply ignorance or arrogance.
The editor: “In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.” The Trinity has ALWAYS existed, and as God, grasps the whole of truth,of knowledge and loved us enough to make us each unique, ready for eternity.
Of course, I hope ‘All IN!” like the Texas Hold Em cry, but I trust God at his word: In Matthew, Jesus told us:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
I plead with you, as I plead with my kids: DON’T DENY Jesus. He has an incredible eternity ahead for you. Don’t let anyone else steal YOUR eternity from you; trust me, that person is not a friend and if he or she ends up in hell, he or she will have plenty of company to share pain forever. You do no one any good if you miss heaven.
Why do people do this to themselves? I live in the real world, why do some people not?
“Oh, i don’t like to fear God, it’s not fair. If i have to fear Him to live forever, I don’t want to” Be careful what you hope and wish for.
Uhh, hello! Knowing that you have a loving God and believing in Him leads you on a tightrope or narrow path for a few years, is not unbridled “fear” but realistic wisdom.
Folks, like what motivated Patty’s question, eternity NEVER ENDS. NEVER! If I need to jolt you into that reality, this is it.
As Virgina was told, “Yes, Patty, there is a new Santa Claus in heaven. A new St Nick as of Jan 28, 2018, about 4 or 5 pm. St Nicholas of Myra was a very generous soul who became bishop in the 4th century. St Nicholas of Duarte or of St. Anne, of Santa Ana, a 21st Century 20-something resident of Grand Terrace just before Heaven, also is a generous man who believes, present grammatical tense, in a God Who loves him.
St. Nicholas of Duarte, caught in the act of taking a nap into eternity.
As the Sun’s editor did on the morning of September 21, 1897, today I “take pleasure in answering (Patty’s question) thus prominently (via) the communication” below:
Fred and Patty, Victoria, Tawnie, Erica, Becky, Jasmine, Joseph, Freddy, Julie: your son and brother St Nick may be 22 in earth years old, but he is now “Good young St. Nicholas of Heaven.”
Virginia mom Patty, there is a new heavenly Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist”…your Nicholas is just in a different and better place. We mourn but he rejoices, though he misses his loving mom, devoted dad and sibs.
Yes, St. Nick of Duarte DOES exist. Like the city, Duarte also means “prosperous guardian” eerily similar to whom the other St Nicholas, of Myra Turkey was: a generous guardian of the needy.
You have a family member who has been a joy on earth, and like St Therese, his best work will come in heaven praying continuously for each and everyone of you to live forever with HIM when your hour arrives. As i pray daily for all my own children as well.
To: Freddy, I live in the real world as you do. Mistakes happen but please fear not: your brother loves you more now, because he knows things neither you, your dad nor I can know. He wants you to know that he loves you, mom and dad and the kids, deeply and is so joyous.
If Nick could supernaturally text message you, he’d say something like this: “Freddy, my brother, I forgave you the instant I saw Mary and Jesus; things happen for a reason. His plans are much greater than ours. I forgave you the very moment I realized I wasn’t in a car, because there was nothing evil to forgive. I’ll tell you more about what it was like to wake up seeing such an amazing sight when I see you next.
I want you to promise me, Freddy you will forgive yourself THIS very moment. It is true “eye has not seen, ear has not heard…” what heaven is all about, what awaits those who love Jesus, His Father and the Spirit, His mom Mary, the Saints… it is INCREDIBLE where I am now. God’s plan was not my plan but God is LOVE, He is happily eternal. As
I am now.
Mom and Dad, taught us well; listen to them. I am the first to benefit from their love up here as we each were adopted and benefited on earth. Freddie, I love you sooo much and mom and dad and our siblings. Our Catholic faith is the gift that keeps on giving. Hours before, I was serving Jesus on earth in Santa Ana; now I serve Him in heaven, alongside Mary’s mom, St Anne, in the heavens. Love you all.” ~St. Nicholas Duarte
Patty, my friend, your Nicholas is our Nicholas. He art in heaven. No brag, just a huge guess supported by basic truth.
We have a celebration of life coming up: