“Ulisses and Emilia Maio—Porto, Portugal,” Liahona, March 2020
Emilia Maio’s sister, Custodia, was born with significant handicaps. Fifteen years ago, Custodia came to live with Emilia and her husband, Ulisses. As a family, they have learned that selfless family service is a great source of joy.
Leslie Nilsson, Photographer
When my sister, Custodia, was born, I could immediately see that she was heaven sent. I saw it in her eyes. Custodia and I were close growing up. Because of her limitations, I often carried her because she couldn’t walk. Sometimes she would have several epilepsy attacks a day, so it was hard to care for her at times, but I was always close by to help my mother. When my mother became sick, I cared for both of them.
At that time, my mother was getting older and had difficulty caring for Custodia. She decided to go to a care center. Custodia went to a facility that cares for people with disabilities. That’s when we started to pick her up and have her stay with us every weekend. We did this for about four years.
Just before my mother died, my husband and I visited her. She held our hands and told us she trusted us to take care of Custodia. We told her we would. For the last 15 years, my sister has lived with us and we have cared for her.
Of course it was hard in the beginning. I had to leave my job to take care of my sister. But it has been a blessing. When Ulisses and I were first married, we discovered we couldn’t have children. Custodia is like a child sent from God for us to take care of. In many ways, she helps fill the void we feel being childless. She’s loving and caring. She loves to laugh and loves going to church. She is a joy.
When I was called to serve as bishop, I had to think if I would be able to fulfill my duties at home and with my calling. Emilia and I talked about it and we realized that we could do this together if we put our trust in God.
Serving my family has always spiritually uplifted me. Although we do not have as much alone time as a couple, we are close to each other spiritually. We are closer as a family. The whole time we have seen the hand of the Lord helping us. He has showed us miracle after miracle. We are truly blessed.