Former musician finds himself stranded, sick, and alone in Long Beach, all but sure his life was soon to end.
By John Grossi
Armando spent the peak of his life dedicated to helping others and making music with some of the most famous people in the world. Through various programs, he worked with addicts from all walks of life to help them feel the love and support of a family as he housed and helped them through addiction recovery. Armed by his deep Christian faith, he led groups with the goal of strengthening their own Christian faith. And through his music studio in Pico Rivera, Armando worked closely with some of the most famous musicians in the world - Cher, Billy Idol, Brian Wilson, Madonna, and more.
In 2019, Armando moved to Long Beach to care for a good friend’s sister, who lived in the other unit of a duplex and needed a little help and guidance. Less than a month after relocating to Long Beach, however, Armando himself felt weak, ill, and was on the verge of death. His doctor broke the news that his liver had failed, and he had 5 months to live.
Armando felt utterly alone. He knew no one, had nothing, and soon sank into a deep depression. He lost weight. He was too weak and fragile to get to the door. COVID restrictions encouraged people to stay inside. Armando didn’t know how to Zoom or use the internet. He had nothing and had no one.
By some sort of miraculous referral, volunteers from Meals on Wheels-LB showed up at his doorstep. They could quickly tell Armando needed more than their cheery meal delivery. Enter Pathways. A gem in the greater Long Beach community, their services are hard to describe. Just know that for anyone near, going through, or just beyond a situation dealing with death, feeling overwhelmed or lost, Pathways will know exactly what to do.
Armando was near death; he’d been told he had 5 months to live. But after the Pathways team entered the picture, his dwindling life completely changed.
“You know, you wear so many hats in life, do so many different things, but when it all comes crashing down, you understand who’s with you and who’s not,” says Armando. “I have to say this non-profit organization here in Long Beach is one powerful group.”
Armando credits the volunteers who helped him—their cheerfulness, their smiles, their confidence—with saving his life.
“I told Tina, Pathways Administrative Assistant, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Tina said ‘Don’t worry. We’re with you until the end.’ That was powerful.”
Armando did not die in 5 months. Pathways made him feel like he had a fighting chance, so he fought, gained some weight, and started feeling better. They set him up on Zoom so he could reconnect with his church groups and friends. He’d been sleeping on a couch; Pathways got him a working hospital bed that was easy to get in and out of. They helped him with food, comfort, company, and communication. Most of all, thanks to Pathways, Armando was no longer alone in Long Beach. He had friends.
Armando’s home is decorated with pictures of his life, many featuring the famous musicians he worked alongside. He played guitar on so many platinum albums with memorable people and has the photos to prove it. One wall remains blank. “That’s going to be where your pictures go,” he says to Pathways Social Worker, Kaitlyn Wood & Community Outreach Director, Rob McNeel. “I get fascinated with the work you guys do. In all my Christian work, I have never seen people who do the work you do with such sincerity. I’ve never been the man to ask people to help. I’ve been the person helping others. When I met Rob, it was the first time as a man I had to ask anyone to help.”
Rob notes that Armando, like so many seniors, felt afraid to just ask for assistance. “So many seniors feel they don’t have a voice to ask for help,” says Armando.
Being able to communicate with his old friends on Zoom was important to Armando since he thought he was going to die. But to live, what he really needed was a new liver. Armando knew that but had no idea how to get one. Who do you ask? Where do you go?
He felt comfortable enough to ask Pathways. And like they always do, Pathways sprang into action and figured it out. Thanks to the Pathways team, at the time of this article, Armando is now on a waiting list to receive a liver from UCLA Medical Center and has friends willing to drive him to get there.
“They’ve lifted me up!” Armando talks with gusto about the Pathways team. “They’ve lifted a shut-in, who can now walk to the car and go sightseeing. I went shopping for the first time in 19 months! The whole world is in turmoil about this virus, yet these people came out and they still went to work. They still lifted this man (me) up.”
Over and over during this interview, Armando repeated this phrase from a biblical text: “At the right time.” Meals on Wheels-LB found Armando “at the right time.” Kaitlyn came to intervene, “at the right time.” Rob came to see him “at the right time.”
Armando, now with visions of public speaking on behalf of Pathways, felt the true impact
of a charity that consistently steps into hard times, and always “at the right time.”
Pathways has been caring for the 908 community for 36 years! Through CHANGES, Pathways provides grief support and counseling for children and their families. Through Caregiving & Care Navigation, Pathways keeps older adults safe and independent in their own home. Through Hospice Care, Pathways brings comfort and care to those experiencing terminal illness and end of life challenges. Often referred to as a “hometown hero,” Pathways provides compassionate care to families living with illness and loss. There are no barriers to service and no fee for programs. All you have to do is call, and Pathways is there to assist! Learn more at www.pathwayshospice.org.