By ALEIDA DURAN
Armando Fernandez leapt from a wheel chair to the Heavens,
leaving behind a trail of light that surpassed his own life, demostrating
with his example that God and science are not contradictory, it is man that
establishes the differences. This shows that man can be one with God, even
if he is a scientist.
We all know people who are profoundly religious, including priest, nuns, as well as special members of other faiths nevertheless, personally, in my lifetime, I have never met anyone that, like Armando, has achieved such a perfect union with God. This even when his field was science.
He graduated Technological Engineering of Mechanical Systems and Electric Technologies, he obtained certifications from the National Institute of Nuclear Operations, the Americans Institute of Standards and The Academy of Nuclears studies. He had more than two decades of experience in the nuclear industry; including in the design and construction of the Salem Nuclear Plant, (of type: Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR).
Armando was born in Jaguey Grande, in the province of Matanzas, Cuba. He was arrested as a young man by the government of Fidel Castro, due to his opposition to the totalitarian regime that denied the basic liberties of his people. He was often threatened with death during the three years he was a prisoner. He was forced to watch as they martially executed his comrades and each time they would tell him: "Look well because tomorrow will be your turn".
Fernandez practically disappeared from his family, which ignored his whereabouts during a long time, not knowing if he had bee executed or not. Finally, Armando came out of jail and shortly thereafter he was able to go into exile with his wife Amada (Ariz her maiden name, and also born in the same city as Fernandez) and their young son, Armandito, then three years old.
They, as all exiles and immigrants, who want to get ahead, accepted all the necessary sacrifices to achieve their dreams. His dreams became true when he was hired by New Jersey PSE&G, the second nuclear complex in the United States of America, with two plants of the PWR type and one Boiling Water Reactor plant. He worked there for more than 25 years.
He and his wife were profoundly Christians, they were extremely involved with World Wide Marriage Encounter and both were active members in their parish. He was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus. He was also treasurer of Float #38 of the Auxiliary Coast Guard.
Armando was a happy, generous and helpful man. When a fellow worker became ill with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), he would pick him up at home, bring him to work, would help him and return him home in the afternoon. He did this day after day while his friend was able to retain his job.
The illness ALS, is a progressive disorder, usually fatal, that attacks the nerves and the muscles. The five senses remain unaltered, as well as the brain functions, and the patient can control his intestinal and urinary movements but the illness affects the nerve cells that control and voluntary movement of the muscles, for example, arms, legs, chest, etc. Little by little the rigidity invades the body and the final agony is usually long and intense.
ALS is commonly known as Lou Gehrig Disease, after the baseball player of the New York Yankees, who died of this decease in 1941. Three and a half years ago, Fernandez was diagnosed with this devastating illness.
He was aware of ALS not only because of his late friend and coworker, but because he had researched the illness in the Internet. In spite of this, according to his loving wife Amada, always at his side, Fernandez never uttered a word of complaint, although, obviously he was suffering intensely. He accepted without protest the will of God. His profound faith became even deeper.
Daily, he would spend long hours in prayer and meditation. Perhaps talking to God. His friends would visit and call him up to comfort him and they always would leave inspired by the example of his unshakable faith.
As the illness progressed, Fernandez would say often that he was in the hand of God and that he was preparing for the moment when God decided to call him. The doctors that attended him had said that the amount of oxygen that they were giving him had reached its maximum and that soon the situation will turn progressively worse. In other words, they were forecasting the proximity of a terrible agony. The intimate unity of Armando and his Creator saved him of that destiny. The respiratory difficulties lasted less than two hours on February 5, 2007.
In a last gesture of infinite generosity, Fernandez donated the cells of his body to the Penn Neurological Center of the University of Pennsylvania for medical research of ALS.
Armando Fernandez, that exceptional and inspiring being, leaves to present and future generations of Catholics, and other Christians, the testimony of an unconditional faith, profound and human. His metaphysical depth was abundantly evident in his stoicism in front of pain, in his generosity and sense of fraternity with all who enjoyed the privilege of knowing him; in this joy of living that he gave to all in spite of the physical suffering. In his living example he showed us that you could love science but first and foremost God.
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