Albert Gonzalez spent countless hours building the strengths, abilities and talents of youth athletes in Cleveland, but in the end his own strength wasn’t enough to fight off COVID-19. He died on Aug. 16 after a short hospitalization in Conroe.
Instead of feeling bitter about his loss, Albert’s mom, Millie Huerta, says she is finding peace in her faith in God.
“I am thankful that God gave me 31 years with my son. He found me worthy enough to allow me to be that boy’s mom for 31 years, and as much as I love my son, I know that God’s love for me and my son is even greater,” she said.
Albert, a long-haul truck driver, called his mom a few days before his passing to say that he was feeling ill and was having difficulty breathing. Concerned that he might have COVID-19, she encouraged him to be tested.
“He was an Army veteran, so he called the VA, and they told him that he needed to go to the hospital. After he went in, he didn’t come home. He wasn’t in the hospital but a week. He went downhill fast,” Millie said.
The day before his death, Albert called his mom because he was scared that doctors would recommend sedating him to treat his illness.
“He was afraid that he couldn’t wake up. I was supposed to go see him on the day he passed. I told him I was coming after work and would be there shortly. The nurse came in while we were talking and said they were moving him to the ICU. They were going to give him two medications to help him,” his mom said. “That was the last time I talked to my son.”
She arrived the next day hours earlier than planned after being urged by the nurse to come as soon as possible, she recalls. As she was two steps from his bedside, she heard someone behind her yell “code blue,” meaning that a patient was facing a life-threatening health issue.
“I felt somebody grab my arm. It was two nurses. People began rushing into Albert’s room, putting on masks. The blue light on his monitors was blinking,” choking back tears as she described the scene.
As she sat alone in the waiting room, her faith was her only comfort.
“All the way to the hospital, I continued to pray for God’s will and begging God to let me bring my baby home. About halfway there, the skies cleared and I knew. I just said to God, ‘You aren’t going to let me bring him home, are you?’ It’s very hard. The hard part is not the accepting that this is God’s will; it’s me accepting it,” she said. “I knew that whatever happened, I have three more children who rely on me and need me to be there for them. I love my son with all my heart, but God loves him more and would be with us every step of the way.”
Albert was not vaccinated, for which he expressed regret as the illness progressed, his mom said.
“You hear on the news when reporters say, ‘Their last words were, ‘I should have gotten vaccinated.’ It sits heavy on your heart. Albert told me he wanted to get vaccinated as soon as he got out of the hospital. He didn’t get that chance,” his mom said. “My oldest daughter and her fiancé got vaccinated today. I told her that was a beautiful way to honor her brother. It saddens my heart so much to hear that someone’s last words were that they wish they had gotten vaccinated.”
She said the toll that the virus is having on medical workers is obvious, though it didn’t lessen their care for her son.
“Before I left the hospital, I thanked them. They didn’t have to take care of my son. They chose to be there. They chose to be helping people in a very difficult time in their lives,” she said. “One of the doctors walked over to me and I could just see the sadness in his face. He said, ‘We tried everything we could but we couldn’t do anything more.'”
Millie is grateful for the support her family has received from people throughout the Cleveland community, particularly his friends in the Cleveland Youth Baseball Association.
“People have been messaging me to say that Albert changed their life and what an impact he made on their lives. The support that we have received has been so unexpected and such a blessing,” she said. “Albert loved what he did for the kids in Cleveland and Cleveland showed up for him in a big way. One thing I have been telling them all when they call or text us is that God is good. I want them to carry that with them. If one person can just see how good God has been to us, then my son’s passing won’t be for nothing.”
She is hopeful that people will hear about Albert’s loss and reconsider their feelings on the COVID-19 vaccines.
“My wish is that people will put politics aside for a moment and just consider it. I am afraid to say anything about it for fear I will be attacked. I just want people to know this virus isn’t something to play with. My son was one of those people who didn’t believe in the vaccine and look at where he is now. If it’s something you can do to save your life or the life of your child, then please consider it,” she said.
As she tries to sort out what comes next in life, Millie plans to keep clinging to her faith and family.
“From the moment that Albert passed to the moment I had to leave my baby in the ground, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I know it wasn’t him anymore in that grave and I am thankful that at that moment, God showed up for me, and He’s been so good. We are not okay, but we are going to be because we are going to get through this like everything else we’ve been through – together,” she said.