An Elegy to a Brother who didn’t get a chance to say Goodbye

A dark cloud passes overhead as I write this elegy. In the past month, Cebu City has been enveloped in sweltering heat and at high noon, one runs the risk of being melted under the heat of the sun if one goes outside in the cement streets. But as the clouds hide the sun since early this morning, the city is cooler.

One hopes the April showers will come sometime today as the parched earth is desperately hoping for some rains to fall. But even as the promise of rain brings a temporary relief, the day – with the dark clouds above – is gloomy.

We wake up to the news that an esteemed and highly cherished confrere-brother – Fr. Alfonso “Fons” Suico, Jr. – left our ranks at 5:38 this morning. Last Monday, April 10 the Holy Redeemer Provincial Center community members went on a post-Easter picnic at a beach outside the city. (I am a member of this community but as I had dialysis sessions during the day, I didn’t join). An accident took place as he and a few others rode a banana boat.

He fell off the banana boat and nearly drowned at past 2 pm. It took a while before he got rescued and brought to a nearby hospital. By 9 PM, he was transferred to Chung Hua Hospital which had better facilities and was confined at the Coronary Care Unit. The doctors for a week tried to desperately keep him alive, despite the serious damage in his brain. He was on incubator and provided all the medical assistance, even as he stayed in coma and remained unconscious.

A decision has to be made whether or not to prolong the medical interventions as he – like most of us in the congregation – had signed a document stating his wish that when there is no hope for survival, all medical interventions should cease. Eventually our superiors and the doctors left the decision to his surviving sister, Sharmaine.

Arriving from the US past midnight of April 17, she rushed to meet Fr. Fons at the hospital and they were able to spend time together in silence. The caregivers still managed to give him a bath at past 4 AM; an hour later, he passed away. He was 47, having celebrated his last birthday with us in the community only last March 23. His family are from Mandaue, Cebu City, although most of his family members migrated to the US.

I vividly recall that day when he celebrated his birthday for the last time. There were wonderful flowers – big pink carnations, red roses, lilies and baby breath in a beautiful bouquet placed on the table. There was a big feast to which everyone – confreres, staff, gardeners and carpenters – were all invited to partake in this banquet. The food was sumptuous with pancit, lechon, fried chicken, ice cream and a carrot cake! Fr. Fons was effusive during that meal time and we certainly enjoyed the birthday celebration!  Who knew then that less than a month after,  Fr. Fons will later partake of the feast in heaven!

This was how the official news –  that followed shortly –  characterized Fr. Fons: “Fr. Fons was a brilliant and compassionate missionary, medical doctor and professor in moral theology who has touched and transformed the lives of many.” Professed as a Redemptorist on March 22, 2003, he was ordained a priest on March 25, 2008. Before joining the Redemptorist, he had finished his medical studies and immediately passed the Board examinations.

He held two doctorates, as a medical doctor and later secured his PhD in Moral Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. He had been teaching Moral Theology subjects at the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City for the past decade. He has mentored many SATMI students for their synthesis papers and dissertations. He has also been giving talks at various fora and conferences.

But for us Redemptorists, he was a well-loved confrere-brother. Much younger that those of us who are years older than him, he followed-up our health bulletins to make sure we did our regular medical check-up and followed doctors’ orders for medication.  As we shared the same kidney problems – and years after I began my dialysis in 2016 he also began to undergo the hemodialysis procedure – we constantly were in touch with the progress of our medication.

When I had my life-threatening health issue last November, he was first to make sure I had the needed medical intervention. Up until I was released from the hospital – after a gruelling three-week stay in two hospitals – he made sure I had the best medical treatment. At the infirmary of the HRPC, he did his best to monitor the caregivers so that they offered the best help to those of us who have been sick.

One can get used to the easy and secured manner that he looked after all of us that we can now ask the question: what happens now that he is gone? His death comes at a not so opportune time, given the changes of our assignments starting on May 1. In the list of assignments issued by our superiors after Palm Sunday, his name appeared as the next Rector of HRPC.  Those of us who were going to stay here at the HRPC were all delighted with this news and we looked forward to being with him as our Rector.

When death claims a loved one, the heart constricts and one is at a loss of words. This is especially so if death – like a thief in the night – comes so unexpectedly! The benefit of a long illness is that we are prepared for the eventually if the loved one finally takes a step towards eternity. There is grief but a sudden death is something else; it pierces the heart as heavier emotions flood our thoughts and feelings.

No matter if words of comfort are immediately relayed by friends and – even as confreres tighten their ranks for mutual support in this time of bereavement – the pain is deep and might linger on for a while. One can seek solace in tears and prayers and the thought that – with God’s mercy – Fr. Fons is now in a much more peaceful, happier and painless space reserved for those whose life was lived fully!

 Parting – Shakespeare once wrote – is such sweet sorrow!  But it takes on an added shade of sadness if the loved one does not get a chance to say goodbye. Lucky are we if there are premonitions of Death arriving at our doorstep; but oftentimes, our intuitions do not work. Even if we are staying in the same monastery and our rooms are just a few meters away, I have taken it for granted that I will bump into him every day.

The last two weeks are a blur of shallow memories. On Holy Tuesday, we had taken the car, together with two ICM nuns to go to San Carlos Major Seminary for a forum on Synodality. He had arranged the sandwiches we were to share at the forum. On Holy Thursday, he joined the community for our penitential rite. On Good Friday – after I and two companions went on a visita iglesia, I met him at the corridor when we came home and casually told him our visita iglesia was most interesting.

He had reminded me that after the Holy Saturday Easter vigil we were going to have a Gaudeamus, but the following morning as I greeted him Happy Easter I told him I couldn’t join the Gaudeamus because of my dialysis schedule. During our Easter celebration evening of Easter Sunday, he had taken full responsibility preparing the sumptuous meal and even hiding Easter eggs and chocolate for us to find in different parts of the common room. One could tell he was delighted that we all enjoyed the search for the eggs and chocolates!

I didn’t get to thank him for the lavish meal as I needed to leave the celebration earlier due to my dialysis session. The following morning he had gone early for his dialysis procedure so I didn’t get to meet him and since I didn’t join the picnic, I was not there when the accident took place. Last time I met him was at the Coronary Care Unit of Chung Hua Hospital last Thursday, April 13, after my own medical check-up. He was unconscious and I couldn’t stay too long in the room as I was very much affected by how he looked.

We stormed the heavens for God’s mercy so Fr. Fons could be healed. And when the doctors gave their diagnosis of the extent of the brain damage we prayed for a miracle to Our Mother of Perpetual Help!  Each day since Monday, we had waited in  bated breath for the next medical report on how he was surviving. Until finally, the sad news came at dawn today. It seems as if Fr. Fons was just waiting for his sister Sharmaine to arrive from the US so they could still have a few hours together before his departure.

When I met Sharmaine hours later at breakfast, I embraced her so that I could condole her. But I couldn’t control my tears so she  instead was the one who comforted me. His remains will be cremated tonight and will be brought to their home in Mandaue where the will hold the wake from April 17 to 19. After that his remains will be transferred to the Redemptorist church where the wake is scheduled on  April 19 to 22, after which it will be interred at our parcel of land at the Caretas Cemetery.

At this juncture, part of what we – the ones left behind – grapple with is to find meaning in the occurrence of an unexpected death. For some time now, I have thought that there comes a time in our lives when we become much more conscious that we are on borrowed time; that we have entered a pre-departure area and we can only be at peace if we realize that each day is a gift and needs to be lived to the full! There much be deep meanings why we are gifted with life even as this can just snap out any second. But perhaps the meaning is as simple as what Franz Kafka had written: “The meaning of life is that it stops!”

 We are still in the Easter Week and we believers are supposedly reminded that our life is like a seed; it is sown at one moment, and if lived well could produce so much fruit but only to fade away in some future time. However, as we are promised by no less than the Redeemer who offered his life so we may have life everlasting, we have no reason to fear death. And every step leading us to eternity should be taken with a deep confidence that the end of the journey is the home that we are all destined to reach when time is up!

And in that place out there beyond the skies which Fr.  Fons right now has claimed as his own, a grand welcome awaits him and us who will follow in the fullness of time. And one is consoled at the thought that this is a truly delightful place with flowers and food, laughter and good cheer, with music and dance – all the good things that one associates with the plentiful blessings!

And Kahlil Gibran gives us this assurance:  “For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

May the light and joy that Fr. Fons  left this world radiate through us as we continue to carry and share his beautiful memories. 



  1. Very well written and it really touched my heart while reading every line.
    Indeed, Fr Fons life was shared with everyone like it was properly laid out by God. Fr Fons was a good friend and my first ever spiritual advisor before I enterer the seminary way back 2010. He gave me my first ever colloquium in a hospital where he had worked before with my mom.
    You will be missed dearly Padre. My family has nothing to remember about you but only your goodness and your genuine love for all your patients.
    Please pray for me and my family (Ma’am Angga, my mom), now that you are in Paradise.
    ~Thomas James Basaca

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: