After long days of construction work, Rogaciano Ríos Marcial enjoyed coming home to his wife’s comforting meals. Some days she’d treat him to chicken mole or his favorite traditional Mexican soup, menudo. The two would swap stories each evening and catch up on each other’s adventures.
The couple met about 11 years ago when they both worked at a Pappasito’s restaurant. She was busser, and he was a dishwasher.
“We loved each other so much,” he says in Spanish. “We were so happy.”
But shortly after Mother’s Day, María Lorena Suárez Escobedo fell into a coma and never woke up. She died on May 22 of liver complications — two days before her husband’s 46th birthday. She was 41.
About five years ago, a vein near her liver erupted and wreaked havoc throughout her organs. She received treatment then, but the pain returned this year. Ríos Marcial noticed her health deteriorate drastically in May, when he persuaded her to get emergency treatment. By that point, though, she could barely speak.
Suárez Escobedo had grown fearful of doctors after several rounds of medication and bloodwork, but she finally agreed with her husband. She responded well to the medication at first, but her husband was soon told to prepare for the worst.
The news that his wife would not survive hit him one afternoon while leaving the hospital and walking to the bus stop. He began to weep uncontrollably. “I remembered God and asked him to take away the pain,” he says. Praying helped him collect himself, but he rode back home that afternoon realizing for the first time that his entire life was about to change.
When Suárez Escobedo died, Ríos Marcial became a widowed single father to his four children and six stepchildren. “Why did this happen to us?” the younger kids ask him. “Why is Mom gone?” He doesn’t have the answers. All he knows is that each day he has to muster the strength to hold the family together without his beloved wife.
Ríos Marcial now cares for their four children, Alma, 10; Jasmine, 9; Keaity, 7; and Jesús Roberto, 5. His stepchildren live with other relatives.
As a single dad, Ríos Marcial has struggled to manage the family’s new normal, from cooking duties to combing his girls’ hair and making them ponytails before school each morning. He’s still working his full-time construction job, though he had to leave an additional part-time job to care for his children. Each night he’s reminded of those evening conversations that he shared with his wife and misses talking to her.
Nowadays, before bed or whenever the family heads out of the house, Ríos Marcial blesses each of them with the sign of the cross. Alma, the oldest, then blesses him.
The Ríos Marcial family’s wishes
Financial support for three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms in North Austin; rental assistance; truck repairs; help with utilities, car insurance and phone bills; attorney who can create will; life insurance; a washer and dryer; a microwave; gift cards to H-E-B and Walmart; shopping service; two twin-size beds with trundles; queen bed with frame and headboard; bedding; grief counseling for family in Spanish; parenting classes in Spanish; cooking classes for family in Spanish; English tutor for Alma; family computer with wireless internet connection; tablets for children; English as a second language classes for father; vanity and desk for Alma; dressers; trip to Austin’s Park N Pizza and Thinkery; professional photographer for family portrait; pots and pans; dishes, silverware and utensils; glassware and plasticware; cleaning supplies; bathroom shower curtain and rug; toiletries; hairbrushes and hair accessories for girls; DVD player and DVD family movies in Spanish; clothes for father: size extra-large shirts, men’s pants 36 x 32, men’s size 10 shoes; clothes for Alma, who enjoys soccer: girls size 10/12 shirts and pants, girls 6 1/2 size shoes; clothes for Jasmine, who likes Shopkins: girls size 7 shirts and pants; girls size 2 shoes; clothes for Keaity, who also likes Shopkins: girls size 4/5 shirts, girls size 7 pants, girls 12 size shoes; clothes for Jesús Roberto, who likes Thomas the Train & Friends: boys size 4/5 extra-small shirts, boys size 5 pants and boys size 12 shoes.
Nominated by: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, 5407 N. Interstate 35, Suite 400, Austin, Texas, 78723. 512-444-7199, bgcaustin.org
Its mission: To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.