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.- Pablo Ráez was just 21 years old when he died last Saturday in Spain. But the young man, a devout Catholic, made a difference in the world, helping increase bone marrow donations in his home city by more than 1,000 percent.
Ráez was a native of Marbella in Malaga, Spain. After being diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, he began to share his daily struggles and positive attitude with his more than 300,000 followers on Facebook.
With a strong faith and a desire to live, he fought to encourage donations of bone marrow, which are critical in fighting leukemia.
About 1,000 people attended the funeral Mass for Ráez, which was held at the Incarnation parish in Marbella.
Fr. José López Solórzano, pastor of the church and godfather to Ráez, presided over the Mass.
“I don't know how to bury Pablo, what I want to do is weep with all of you,” the priest said, visibly moved, according to Diario Sur.
In his homily, he recalled that the young man “grew up in an atmosphere of simplicity; from that simplicity comes forth great things.”
Ráez, the priest said, “did what he had to do, he has left his mark on this world.”
Fr. López recalled how the young man used to say, “Leukemia is teaching me more than it has taken from me,” and “Death is part of life, and so you shouldn't fear it but love it.”
In a report filmed some time ago, the priest said that “when I hear that Pablo is thankful for his leukemia, it shakes me up…Many times things happen to us that slip by in our lives and so it is, but Pablo learns every day from what is happening to him.”
Fr. López also related that he met Ráez at the church of the Incarnation when they boy turned 14 years old and asked to receive the sacraments of Baptism and First Communion.
“I told him it was a personal decision of his. So he began a formation process that culminated with Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion,” the priest recalled.
In the same report, Ráez commented on his friendship with the priest. “He's my godfather but above all, he's my friend. He's a great friend to me and has been very present in my illness, he has really been one of the people closest to me, and always, always, always he has been able to be there to see me.”
Ráez had recalled that one of the most difficult days of his life was when “they were doing a transplant on me and I was very afraid and he (Fr. Lopez) arrived at the hospital. When I saw him, I cried a lot and then I knew that I was going to get better and I was going to be well. Besides all the people that were praying for me, that happened to me and made me recover.”
The young man, who became an icon in the fight against leukemia, was going to be awarded the City Medal on Tuesday, February 28. The medal commemorates the 1980 referendum which secured autonomy within Spain for Andalusia, the region where the city of Marbella is located.
An online petition has been launched to name a street in honor of the young man. That petition has more than 100,000 signatures and says that “Pablo increased donations of bone marrow in Malaga 1,300% in 2016, with a total of 11,201 new donors.”
It recalls Ráez as a “valiant fighter who has saved many lives. To remember him for posterity is an act of justice, as his was an immense act of courage, solidarity and love.”