Allen Belaguas, an in-home caregiver, cared about his patients -- so much so he sacrificed his life to rush back into a burning building to try to save them.
Friday marked what would have been Allen's 22nd birthday -- a time for his family to celebrate the memory of someone passionate about caring for others.
And what better way to celebrate, his mother said, than by honoring those whom Allen aspired to be, and who cared for him in his final days.
Zita Pierson, Allen's mother, said the luncheon she hosted Friday was meant to thank the staff at Presence Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines, where her son spent five weeks being treated for severe smoke inhalation.
He was later transferred to Rainbow Hospice, where he died Feb. 16 -- almost two months after the Dec. 18 accidental house fire that killed the couple for whom he was caring, Tom and Jan Lambert of Naperville.
"I owe them (Holy Family) because I forgot to thank them for what happened," said Pierson, who hosted Friday's celebration complete with lunch and cake, following a memorial Mass.
Allen had only been working for the Lamberts for only eight days when fire struck the morning of Dec. 18. He initially escaped the blaze, but then returned to try to save the couple.
Tom Lambert, 57, who had brain cancer, and Jan Lambert, 56, who was blind, died in the fire. Two others in the home, Tom Lambert's father and sister, escaped with minor injuries.
A cause of the fire is undetermined, because so much of the house was consumed in the fire that investigators were unable to pinpoint what sparked it, authorities said.
Allen, who was born and raised in the Philippines, came to America about a year and a half ago. He wanted to support himself, his mother said, and was working to save money "to put toward his dream to become a nurse."
Allen's stepfather, George Pierson, said the family is grateful for the care the nurses provided.
"It was a tremendous thing for them to do because they put their passion into my stepson," he said. "I'm so happy they were there for him."