|Amy Hilbrich Davis, ND Daughter
In honor of John Francis Hilbrich ’48, ’51 JD
I raised my hand a few months back to co-author a reflection with my dad, John (Jack) Hilbrich, a “double domer.” Dad was diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease earlier this summer, and my hope was to capture and share the depth and beauty of his faith before it vanished.
What I didn’t fully comprehend was the speed and cruelty of his disease. Alzheimer’s is cunning and swift—it comes and goes at will, taking with it names, faces, dates, directions, and places. And for those of us watching our loved ones suffer, it takes your breath away. Each time I sat down with Dad to work on our reflection, his eyes would flutter and then close, while mine flowed with tears. Time after time, my beloved father would slip away—sometimes mid-sentence, losing his way in our discussion.
I ultimately realized that I didn’t need Dad’s analysis of scripture or his memory to honor his devotion to our Lord. When it comes to faith, Dad is prayer in action. Every morning he and Mom rise in prayer as they recite the Rosary. He takes Holy Communion most days and customarily ends each day with an examination of conscience. While a student at Notre Dame, he served Mass daily. Throughout his life, he has fervently chosen Christ in pursuit of perfection.
Dad shared with me yesterday, “Every day is preparation until one day I will say, ‘Here I am Jesus. I am ready for you.’” Despite his memory challenges, Dad continues to answer the call to loyalty and commitment in the face of difficulty, the same calling Jesus gives to his disciples in today’s passage.
Each person of faith must also answer this invitation. My family and I answered God’s call to come to South Bend to love, guide, and nurture my folks. This witness and this walk will be one of our greatest privileges in life—the ultimate collaboration with my Dad as we follow the Lord together.
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