Monday, March 29, 2010

Hope you liked it buddy...

Please forgive me for the delay in writing – yesterday completely drained me physically and emotionally... today I'm just absolutely fatigued.

As Alex and I became friends, I fully expected to attend a ceremony for him when he was in his 30s - and I did.
I expected tears to be shed, stories to be told, and favorite songs to be played - and there were.

But the tears were tears of sorrow, not joy.
The stories were of fond memories but no wishes for an even better future.
The music was a painful remembrance of favorite songs that will never be lip synced by Alex again.

The day though was beautiful. In an area known for cloudy and windy weather, it turned out to be an amazing day. There was a thin overcast that kept the sun at a comfortable brightness. The temperature was in the upper 60s and there was none of the usual high coastal wind. The day was perfect for a gathering of friends and family.

Honestly - the day was a blur. I remember a friend coming over to pick me up... of trying to read my speech through tear blurred eyes, trying to speak with a throat closed tight with sorrow. When we arrived in Half Moon Bay I shifted back into execution mode and began taking charge and setting up the house.

At around 10am on Sunday people started gathering on the ocean bluff in Half Moon Bay under the lightly cloudy skies. After a little flurry of sound system tests and getting the family in to comfortable chairs, the ceremony began.

Alex's undergrad adviser, Angel, officiated the day's events. He started things off and explained the lack of a body. Even in his death, Alex continued to give, and gave his body to science in hopes that the knowledge gained by studying his body will help in preventing someone else from suffering as he had. After that the speakers came up and talked about how they knew Alex and what he taught them.

The speakers:

Monica - Being a cousin she could tell of his early years

Janet - A friend since the 9th grade
Jeff & Tom - High school friends who played and sang some of Alex's favorite songs
Mike - Alex's freshman college roommate, who he continued to be great friends with
David - Alex's graduate research adviser
Dana - A friend of Alex's from Cosmos
Serena - A friend since grad school, but more importantly, his recent girlfriend
And then me.

I'll post more detailed information about the service, including the speeches, at a later time.

As my turn approached, my stomach turned, my heart sank and the tears... which had taken a moments pause... began to flow again. I just couldn't believe that my buddy was gone. I JUST saw him... I was just talking with him. Last week this time we were just hanging out... but now he's gone. Anger and sorrow mixed with peace knowing he was no longer in pain as I walked up and took the mic.

Visibly shaking I stood up and tried to calm myself down enough to talk. I wanted them to know the Alex that I knew. I wanted them to be able to hear and understand my words, and try to find some hidden meaning amidst the sobbing that I felt coming. I took a breath. I looked up and I began to talk.

Despite having my speech written, and having had read it through multiple times now, I couldn't tell you what I said. I think it was close to what I had written... but for a time I was (thankfully) on autopilot and just spoke. The one time I did look down at my sheet, I started to tear up and had to pause before continuing. The next thing I can really recall was sitting back down, surrounded by fellow climbers and asking for a much needed group hug.

The remainder of the ceremony was others getting up to share their "Alex experience", followed by a social gather at my advisor’s house surrounded by remembrances of Alex - from his photo albums to a slideshow Serena put together of his life and quotes that people have sent in.

Several hours later the guests left, the remainder of the food was put away, and the house was cleaned. Alex's mom and sister sat in the house staring out at the ocean through large windows. It was as we started packing up Alex's memorabilia that his sister Julia could no longer hold back the tears - realizing the day was almost over, Alex's service was done, and she really did have to say goodbye to her little brother.

Alex's mom had slowly rocked herself into a peaceful sleep. There we let her stay for a couple hours before she aroused herself, realizing that this wasn't her house and that it was time to go. As she hugged me she quietly asked "Is he really gone?" The empty consolation that I gave to this mother that out lived her child, who instead of picking out a wedding dress had to pick out funeral attire, I held her tightly and said "No. He's a part of each and every one of us."

Written by: Blase B. Iuliano
Edited by: Janet Cheng


Carol said...

I'm still reading. I'm still finding it hard to believe Alex is really gone. Blase you're doing a great job. I really need to read your posts because I can't be there myself... thanks...

Anonymous said...

thank you for writing and sharing this, seeing this through your eyes was very touching. RIP alex.

Anonymous said...

it means a lot to those of us on the east coast who cannot be there in person to read these updates. we are all thinking of him, his warm spirit, the optimism and passion he brought to our lives, the sadness that remains as we come to terms with the reality that he is really gone. thanks for letting us share in this thoughtful memorial.