A Sacred Journey
When one brother is diagnosed with a shattering illness, another brother is forced to face his demons as the family struggles to pick up the pieces and stay together in this powerful portrait of love and what it means to truly care for each other.
This remarkable documentary is about a remarkable man and an amazing family. The introduction, a quote by Rosalyn Carter, states: “There are only four kinds of people in this world. Those who have been caregivers, those who are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”
Juan Jose Quintero was married, the father of a son and daughter, and the member of a large and caring family. Then he learned he had ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease,” and that he would eventually wind up in bed without the use of his muscles and that he would ultimately die. But his perseverance during this time touched his family and his brother, Ernesto, who was on drugs, and who decided he needed to get off the drugs to be there for his brother. He not only gave up the drugs but cared for his brother, became a filmmaker, and is the one responsible for this awesome documentary.
Juan’s mother comments that there are a total of 12 caregivers which includes herself and her husband, five of Juan’s siblings, and nurses and CNA’s. She says, “Everything is all good, so thank God.” She checks his vitals often and we learn that Juan was diagnosed with ALS at age 35, during the prime of his life.
The documentary does a good job in fleshing out the family’s past and happy moments by showing old family home videos-showing the viewer the adults back when they were kids. Various photos are shown with the names and relationships of the family members. Several interviews are also done which gives the viewer an idea of what life was like before this tragic event entered their lives. And recent interviews are included with glimpses into this family’s devotion and commitment to one another. Their commitment to Juan and his to them is truly inspiring.
Juan’s son John Paul was diagnosed with a rare blood disease and needed transfusions every two weeks as he grew up. This was added to the family’s already difficult tasks. Juan himself often took John Paul for the treatments until he could no longer physically go. One of the interesting things of the documentary is how it gives updates on John Paul every so often, for example listing that he is now receiving transfusion number 168!
Family members share their love and tears regarding the progression of Juan’s disease. They also hold family meetings. In a poignant and touching scene Juan’s father says he hopes his son will continue to hold on for as long as he can, but it’s ultimately Juan’s decision. One of Juan’s difficult decisions is whether or not he will go on a ventilator, which can save his life but the quality of his life will not be easy.
The documentary covers the various aspects of dealing with this hardship very well. It is Juan’s dream to have a mural of his and his family’s life done on a nearby wall. The family has to come up with an artist to paint it but they are racing against time as Juan is given a short time to live. On top of this, there is talk of a law being passed which would prevent the mural from being painted. It seems there is always a challenge to be faced. And the family explores every possible cure that they can for Juan, realizing after a while that people may mean well, but a lot of the suggestions they receive for treatment makes little or no difference at all. In a telling moment, Juan says, “Everyone is rooting you on, but no one is waling the path” (that he walks).
Yet this amazing documentary chronicles moments that people thought would never happen, such as Juan’s 38th birthday in 2007. And the amazing support he continues to receive is fantastic, as family members and friends hold fund raisers to help continue to pay for the large medical bills that come along with this debilitating disease. The day finally arrives for the revealing of the mural in honor of Juan and his family. Yet Juan continues to beat each diagnosis of how much time he has remaining. As one family member jokes, “Fourteen years later and he’s still with us. Juan might outlive all of us!” The family’s faith and prayers, in the midst of their personal storms, is inspiring and uplifting.
We also get to see an amazing thing which happens regarding young John Paul, and the graduation of Juan’s daughter and her entrance into college. There are unquestionably several inspiring moments in this remarkable documentary. The film merits our Dove seal for Ages 12+ due to the use of mild language and the mature theme.
The Dove Take:
This inspiring film shows the indomitable and unwavering spirit of an amazing family and of an amazing man.