The youngsters’ soccer recreation in Miami honors these of COVID. deceased father

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA. – The night before Alan Arellano died of COVID-19, his wife recorded a short audio message with their two youngest sons. Doctors in Miami had put the 49-year-old man in a coma after suffering a heart attack while being treated for the virus.

His family was not allowed to visit him, but after nearly 20 years of marriage, Karyn Arellano knew that the love of her life could still hear their voices in a coma.

“I know you will be out of there very soon. Tomorrow is my game against Benedictine and I’ll play really well for you Dad, ”his 16 year old son and namesake Alan ‘AJ’ Arellano said on the message, trying to sound optimistic.

His 14-year-old brother Evan interfered: “I’m here for you. I love you.”

Karyn Arellano, a kindergarten teacher, was tired and worried. Although she tried to sound positive on the recording, she had struggled to sleep in the nearly two weeks since Alan’s hospitalization and made frequent calls to the nurses for news in the middle of the night.

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The day after the family recorded the news, the doctor called them at the school. Alan had had another heart attack and they tried to resuscitate him. Karyn was hysterical.

“Please keep working on him. Don’t give up on him. He’s strong, he’s a fighter, ”she recalls.

As they rushed to the hospital, a nurse held the audio message close to Alan’s ear. “We love you, Daddy … I’m here with you, honey,” her words echoed as a team of doctors worked desperately but ultimately unsuccessfully to save him.

“As he was taking his last breaths, he could hear me and my boys over and over,” she said. “I am at peace knowing that in his last moments he heard the voices of his family.”

When Arellano married Karyn, she already had two and five year old children. He loved her like his own. Together they had two other boys. Her family was his world.

He attended football and baseball games and training sessions, chauffeured the kids in his red pickup truck, hurled “cheeseburgers in paradise,” and pushed them toward school and career goals.

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As a college admission advisor, he helped new students, many of them from low-income backgrounds and some of them adults who were struggling to change their lives. He talked about them at the dinner table and went to see how their classes were going.

Taking the same message about education and hard work with his kids, he spent hours advising 26-year-old Elyssa Hernandez, who is now applying for medical school. He often got Hernandez and her 28-year-old brother Erick to dress up for mock interviews and spice them up with questions.

“We didn’t really have a father figure,” said Erick Hernandez of his mother’s wedding to Alan. “He was always so selfless with us.”

Erick Hernandez recently started college. He couldn’t wait to tell Alan he’d gotten a clear A.

He was “a big teddy bear,” said Erick, teaching him “how to take care of my brothers, respect his mother, just any lesson a father would teach his son.”

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He preferred to do everything together as a family. The trips revolved around the kids, including two expeditions to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in New York State, always eager to make memories.

Date nights were rare. But he told his wife that there would be plenty of time for romantic vacations when the kids grew up.

“It’s our turn later,” said Karyn. “We just wanted to make sure that we as husbands and wives are always present and give our kids lessons that they can take with them.”

Alan enjoyed choosing the best baseball bats or football boots for his younger sons, and new clothes for an interview for his older children. When you’re out and about in the world, you represent your family, he often said.

When he tested positive for COVID-19 and quarantined in the family bedroom, would-be doctor Elyssa brought him three meals a day while Karyn and Evan were at a baseball tournament.

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Alan, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly lethargic with a troubling cough. His oxygen levels were extremely low when he was taken to the emergency room. Ten days later he had a heart attack.

The doctors wanted to put him in a coma. Karyn was startled. She remembers that he tried to calm her down on the phone.

“Babe, I just want you to know that I agreed to intubate myself and they will fix me, they will fix my heart,” he told her. “I love you.”

It was their last conversation. He never regained consciousness.

The children were heartbroken, the focus of their family was suddenly gone.

“I can’t believe he can’t let me go to medical school,” Elyssa sobbed.

But even in death, Alan’s legacy is always present.

During the funeral prep, Karyn says, AJ pulled her aside and reminded her of his Friday night football game in Jacksonville, nearly six hours away.

“Buddy, you know it’s okay to miss this soccer game. Your trainers won’t be upset. “

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But she says he was determined.

“Mom, now more than ever I have to play every single game because I know how much my daddy loved watching me play soccer,” he told her. “And I know that Daddy will be with me and he can see me.”

In Jacksonville on Friday night, Alan’s 16-year-old namesake donned his navy football helmet. Even though they lost, it was never about the game. His mother and siblings all made the long journey, and Karyn placed a gold-framed photo of Alan in the stands next to them.

On Monday, AJ will put on a suit and tie and bury his hero with his siblings.

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