Divine Mercy, trust in Jesus carry Omaha mother through loss of her young son
April 19, 2023
Gus Seberger liked to flash his mother, Jill, a little side-eye smirk as he would run onto the baseball field during his older brothers’ games last summer. Jill would catch him before he got onto the diamond, and he would laugh and laugh. And then do it again.
Gus, whose full name is Augustine Joseph Seberger and often affectionately referred to as Saint Augustine, was in that “super fun stage” last July, his mom said, when he choked on a sandwich while she was working from home.
The babysitter ran Gus to Jill, and she flipped him over, did back thrusts on him and told the babysitter to call 911. When Gus became unresponsive, Jill began chest compressions. Once the first responders arrived, she stepped back and started praying, “Jesus, I trust in You and Your divine plan” over and over.
Gus’ heart started beating on its own about 40 minutes later but scans over the next two days showed no blood flow to his brain. He died on July 17, 2022. In most people’s eyes, this would be a tragedy from which few parents could recover. At only 18 months, Gus’ earthly life was over much too soon.
Jill sees it differently. She believes that as Gus’ time in this world ended, his ultimate purpose was beginning. God’s plan for Gus was greater than anything he could ever accomplish on Earth.
Now, instead of running onto baseball fields, Gus is saving souls and leading people to Heaven – including those in his own family. How did Jill know this? She said God told her.
On the morning Gus died, Jill said, “God was like, ‘This is going to save your family. This is your path to Heaven.’ And I didn’t know exactly who Gus would be saving, but I know he has saved a lot of people.”
People have told Jill and her husband, Tim, how Gus’ story changed their lives. These include nurses at the hospital, friends, family, neighbors and individuals from across the country and around the world. They told them this in person, wrote letters and emails, and reached out to them on social media, describing how this unthinkable tragedy had changed them for the better and strengthened their faith.
Priests, seminarians, religious sisters, and people of all ages and from all walks of life prayed for Gus while he was in the hospital. Strangers who had never met the Sebergers asked God for a miracle. To this day, Jill doesn’t understand why their son’s story traveled so far and wide. After all, she said, horrible tragedies happen every day everywhere in the world.
“To hear testimonies about how Gus changed their lives and how the community that showed up for us changed their lives was – is – incredible,” she said. “I think God had some lives He wanted to change and some people He wanted to impact. And He used Gus to do that.”
Jill spoke to a full church at Christ the King Catholic Church in Omaha on April 16 as part of the Apostolate for Family Consecration’s Divine Mercy Sunday Day of Grace program. The theme for this year’s event was, “Trusting in God’s Merciful Love.” It is a topic Jill knows a lot about.
A few days before the event, Jill said she hoped her witness would help others see that Divine Mercy and trust in Jesus are the only way forward after tragedy. Father Taylor Leffler, associate pastor of Saint Wenceslaus-Omaha, believes Jill is living proof of that.
The Saint Wenceslaus rectory is next door to the Seberger home. Father Leffler’s first assignment as an ordained priest was at Saint Wenceslaus. The day he moved into the neighborhood, Jill befriended him. He became so close to the family that when their son, Leo, was born a few years later, Jill and Tim asked Father Leffler to be his godfather.
Father Leffler said watching Jill and her husband, Tim, navigate Gus’ death was like “watching someone become a saint.”
Gus’ wake and funeral were livestreamed, and thousands tuned in.
“People all over the world watched this faithful couple show the depth of their faith, especially in eternal life and the gift of the Resurrection, which for them is not just some concept far, far away anymore, but it’s something very real,” Father Leffler said. “Jill knows the mercy of Jesus. I mean, more than most people I know. Some people would imagine Jill and Tim being really mad at God. How could God let this happen? And blaming God for all this. And I just never saw that happen.”
Father Leffler believes that Jill – and all mothers who have experienced the death of a child – have a special relationship with Jesus’ mother.
“They share something with the Blessed Virgin Mary that most mothers will never share with her. This reality of having watched your own child die,” he said. “For the Blessed Virgin Mary, that did not decrease her faith. It increased it. While it is not natural to watch your child die, when you can do it in faith, it completely changes a person.”
Tim said Jill has helped their entire family by reminding them they have a personal saint. While there are really, really hard days, Jill has shown her husband the meaning of “holy surrender.”
“From the outset, she was very focused on this not being the end,” he said. “She just always kept this eternal perspective. She is very strong emotionally and spiritually – constantly praying, always turning the conversation around the dinner table with the boys and me back to, ‘This is sad for us, but this isn’t sad for Gus.’”
Jill dismisses the idea that something special about her allowed her to faithfully accept God’s will. She points out that Christ didn’t die on the cross for extraordinary people; He died for regular people, sinners and those most in need of His mercy.
Christ’s mercy has carried her through the past nine months and has allowed her to understand that Heaven is a real place and Gus is there, she said.
“Whenever I struggle with something, God sends me something to assure me of His love and mercy for us,” she said. “That love and mercy are open to everyone, regardless of what they are going through.”