On August 9, 2016, Adan Guevara died tragically; on the previous Sunday, he was caught in a dangerous rip current as he attempted to save his nephew from drowning near Wildwood, N.J.
A native of El Salvador, Adan became a part of the Esperanza Center family. After his brother, Williams, crossed into the U.S. as a teen fleeing abuse and neglect, Adan became his guardian and saw to it that he received legal assistance at the Esperanza Center, just as he did for his sister Raquel. Both Williams and Raquel today have their green .i and are permanent residents of the United States.
Scott Rose, a pro bono attorney with the Esperanza Center, represented both Williams and Raquel in immigration court. He is also a permanent deacon at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Frederick. Below is the powerful and moving eulogy Scott offered at Adan’s funeral:
I am Scott and this is Jules. We are from Catholic Charities’ Esperanza Center Immigration Legal Services. Adan came to us a number of years ago, seeking our help for his family. I am a volunteer attorney with Esperanza, and I am a deacon in the Catholic Church. I represented Adan’s younger siblings, Williams and Raquel.
All of the attorneys and staff at Esperanza loved Adan and his family. He and his family became part of our family. We grieve and pray with them.
Adan was a very holy man. In fact, I believe he was a saint. Saints are not people who are perfect. They are people who show extraordinary love in ordinary ways. That was Adan. He showed his family extraordinary love in ordinary ways. And he was extraordinarily humble. Adan was totally devoted to helping his brothers and sisters be safe and happy in the U.S. He didn’t think too much about himself. When most young men are living a fun life of parties and adventure, Adan was serving his family.
I first met Adan a couple years ago when he brought his brother Williams to meet with me at Esperanza as I was going to try to help Williams get a green card. He was willing to be the legal guardian of his young brother. Immediately, I knew Adan was special. As Williams shared with me about his difficult life in El Salvador and the reasons he fled, Adan started to cry. It was so apparent how much Adan loved his brother.
Throughout the long process of helping Williams, Adan was always in the background, behind the scenes, supporting and encouraging his younger brother. Williams became a star for Esperanza and our mission, as he was so skilled at publicly sharing his tragic story and what kind of terrible circumstances force children from Central America to flee, taking the dangerous trip alone to the U.S. He was featured in two television news stories, several newspaper articles, and he even testified before the Maryland General Assembly in support of a new Maryland law to increase the age from 18 to 21 for abused children to be eligible to receive green cards. And Adan was never jealous of the attention and praise given to Williams. Adan was just proud. He continued in his humble ways to support the cause of immigration reform in Maryland, driving Williams wherever he needed to go to help, and encouraging Williams to continue the work.
Of course, for the brothers, this was very personal. Their sister, Raquel, had just fled, alone, from terrible abuse in El Salvador. But she was 20. This law was her only chance for a green card — and safety.
I remember the General Assembly hearing in Annapolis like it was yesterday. During the testimony of other citizens, the lawmakers were shuffling papers and walking in and out. But when Williams began to testify, there was complete silence, as the delegates were captivated by the tragedy of his story and the quiet sincerity of his presentation in well-practiced English. As he finished I heard a sound in back of me in the audience. When I looked around, I saw that it was Adan who was crying. In a rear seat. In the background, where he did all of his love and support.
From that back seat, he was crying in sadness for his younger brother’s pain. He was crying in fear for the safety of his younger sister, Raquel. And he was also crying for all migrant children who have been abused. He loved them all, and wanted to help them all.
The law passed. And it was in large part due to the tireless, invisible work of Adan – who cared for Williams when he first fled El Salvador, secured immigration representation for him so he could get his green card, and supported him in speaking out to help get the law passed. Hundreds of Maryland children between 18 and 21 owe tremendous gratitude to Adan. And so does Raquel. She was the first person in Maryland to benefit from that law. And she has her green card today.
Adan died saving his 15 year-old nephew from drowning. Adan lost his life the way he lived it: sacrificing himself for others. This is another sign of a saint.
Saints like Adan live on forever. In our hearts and in our minds. And they never stop loving us. We can continue our relationship with him, even though his body is no longer on this earth. He is very much alive in Heaven. When we miss Adan, we can pray to him to feel closer. When we are troubled, we can pray to him to give us support. When we are happy, we can share with him our joy. He would like that, too.
Adan devoted his adult life to helping his family be safe and happy in the U.S. He will continue that work from his new home. And he will also work to help his family and friends join him in Heaven, when that time comes for each of us. When we take that final journey and cross that other border. Where Adan will be eagerly waiting for us, welcoming us with a huge hug and his wonderful warm smile.