News: Family relies on the hope our faith offers
February 18, 2021
Last year was tough. But an unfortunate few had it even worse than most.
Kristi Allison of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Parish in Ankeny and her three children watched on helplessly as their husband and father Matt suffered a terminal illness and un-timely death in 2020.
Those who know Allison saw just how strong her faith was when her husband, Matt, 50, passed away.
In March 2019 he went in for his 50 year old colonoscopy and doctors found a “massive tumor that had metastasized his entire abdominal cavity,” Allison said.
“In early April of 2019 they did a 12 hour surgery where they moved the tumor and tried to remove as much as they could because it was so invasive through his abdomen,” she continued. “He went into chemo. And [the cancer] was so aggressive that it was already back by September.”
They went to the Mayo Clinic into experimental treatments.
“But by February 2020 he was just too ill and ended up in the hospital,” Allison said. “He was dehydrated, he couldn’t eat anymore, and with the pandemic we needed somebody to come to the house.”
By March 2020 hospice was regularly coming to the house until Mother’s Day.
“The plan was to go into hospice [in Johnston temporarily] to see if he could get some fluids,” Allison said. “He was in a lot of pain and constantly nauseous and ill. And by Tuesday he couldn’t stand up anymore. And by Wednesday he wasn’t talking to me anymore.”
Matt passed away on May 22, 2020.
Because of the pandemic, only one person could be in the building at a time to visit.
“We could have one person in the building in a time…,” Allison said. “We had to get special permission for my sons to come in and say goodbye.”
The parish community rallied around the family, offering up prayers, dropping off food and sending cards and messages of hope.
“Father Michael [Amadeo] was wonderful at that time,” she continued. “He came out to the funeral home and did Mass there [because of COVID-19 restrictions]. We livestreamed it on Facebook.
Father Amadeo spoke of their loss with the entire family.
“Kristi persevered [through] that loss…,” Father Amadeo said. “But also what I saw within her was this faith…”
Sadness because her spouse is gone, but also knowing there’s more.
“To see her persevere with the kids, her focus was on the resurrection…,” Father Amadeo added, though knowing full-well death could not be avoided. “But it gave them some hope, instead of the gloom and doom of dad’s not here… Now their dad is with God; dad is embraced in God’s love.”
Though the pandemic created a number of challenges, it also offered a silver lining.
“There was a blessing with the COVID – we were home together,” Allison added.
Her strength in the face of adversity has made an impact on the people around her.
“I have so much admiration and respect for Kristi. I consider her one of my friends and… a symbol of God’s strength to me,” said Mary Sankey, associate director of faith formation at OLIH, recalling a conversation where Allison’s trust in God blew her away.
Allison’s impact is not limited to the church community.
Nicole Ryan of St. Francis Parish in West Des Moines is a co-worker and good friend to Allison. They both serve special needs kids in their jobs.
“Kristi is a wonderful co-worker,” Ryan said. “She is very upbeat, gentle, patient, humble, smart, loving and has a witty sense of humor. She really is always focused on others –even when it comes to all the issues she has had to deal with this past year. She lives her faith by her actions and the way she lives her life. Her words are always upbeat and loving.”
Kristi and Matt clearly made peace with his diagnosis and lived life to the fullest right up to the end, Ryan added.
“Kristi's faith was evident in her attitude as she went about her day working with kids with special needs and then going home and taking care of her family without one complaint…,” Ryan continued. “Kristi is showing us her faith by her actions and attitude – she doesn't need to use words as her actions speak volumes.
“I am blessed to call her friend and to have witnessed true sacramental love,” Ryan concluded.
Sister Susan Widdel, pastoral minister at OLIH, connected Allison with a Stephen Minister and kept the family in her prayers.
“We have an All Souls Day special Mass to remember people that have died in the past year. She had all of the kids there,” said Sister Widdel, noting that she saw daughter Anna looking through the memorial photos in search of her dad.
But this isn’t the end.
“We didn’t lose him, we know where he is – in heaven, and to remember that,” Allison said. “And so I’m not sad necessarily for him, he’s no longer in pain. I’m more sad for us, because we miss him. But we’re doing ok.”