Father featured in Season for Caring dies from ALS

Feb 08, 2018
Reshma Kirpalani
Gael Guadalupe Gracia Garcia helps his father, Marcelo Gracia, 45, get off his bed last fall. Marcelo Gracia died on Wednesday. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Marcelo Gracia was just waiting for God. He said God was the only one who could decide whether to leave him with his family for a little while longer or to bring him home.

For six years, Gracia lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which causes muscles to waste away.

On Wednesday, Gracia had one good last day before he died. He was 45.

Gracia and his son and main caregiver, Gael Guadalupe Gracia Garcia, 24, were part of the 2017 Statesman Season for Caring program, which highlights the needs of 12 families nominated by local nonprofit organizations and then helps hundreds of other families served by the agencies. The Gracias were nominated by Hospice Austin.

Before he was diagnosed, Gracia worked in construction and helped install large storm drains and sewer lines for the city of Austin and commercial projects.

“During this past year, his illness has been progressing faster than any other years before,” Gracia Garcia said in October, after Marcelo Gracia’s doctors had told them his father would only have a few more months to live.

Yet, after a good day of being able to talk and stand in his walker, it was a surprise when it happened, said Melinda Marble, communications coordinator with Hospice Austin.

Season for Caring funds and a donation from BrightStar Care made sure that Gracia was not alone these last few months by providing home health care assistance so that Gracia Garcia could continue to work in a laundromat to support his father. BrightStar Care also offered to pay for Gracia Garcia to go to school to become a certified nursing assistant, with a job in the future.

“Season for Caring brought Marcelo and Gael so much comfort and so much quality of life these last few months,” Marble said. “To be able to provide him with a full-time caregiver was priceless. It gave Gael peace of mind.”

Season for Caring also reunited Gracia with his wife, who lives in Indiana. She was able to visit during the Christmas holidays using Season for Caring funds. Funds also will help pay for the cremation, and a burial plot also was donated.

“The community showed so much generosity to this family,” Marble said.

Gracia leaves behind his son and a daughter, Carmen Gracia Garcia, as well as a grandson, 4-year-old Iram, with whom Gracia had a special bond.

Gracia said in October that he was proud of Iram and that he regretted that he wouldn’t be able to be there for more of his life.

“He still wants to see him grow,” Gracia Garcia said.