“Tragedy, Cat…tragic……Died, he died, Cat.”
“What? Tree? You’re cutting in and out. I can’t hear you. Oh no. Tell me again?”
I was driving. When I heard it clearly from my sister, I started screaming. I pulled over and collapsed onto the passenger seat. No, no!
I called my favorite aunt who was on her way up to Sacramento with another aunt and uncle—all of them siblings—to be with their sister who had lost her only son.
“Auntie Letty, where are you?”
“We’re on our way to Sacramento right now. We’re getting gas, but we’re almost there.”
“Are you sure he’s gone? Are you sure?” I felt like I needed evidence. I was demanding it.
“Yes, dear, yes.”
The past week seems like a blur. I passed the time at work, unbeknownst to anyone the anguish I was going through. I smiled and pretended like everything was normal.
“How are things going?”
“Oh fine. Just fine.”
Then I came home and drank. Every night, I drank. To numb the pain, to sleep. Wine and sake. Lots of wine and sake.
I drive my car knowing that it’s his same car. Why him? Why not me? I’m a reckless driver. I’ve traveled. I’ve done a lot. He was just getting started.
The Gacad Family: 10 brothers and sisters (1 deceased).
All of them raised their children in Northern California.
25 total first cousins.
Numerous birthdays, baptisms, graduations, Easters, Thanksgivings, Christmases.
They’re not only cousins. They’re my brothers and sisters. I feel like I’ve lost a brother.
When tragedy strikes, you realize who your real friends are. People who called and checked up on me. People who took me out for drinks. There are people who are sensitive and those who aren’t. When I told someone what happened, she said, “Death because of stupidity? There’s nothing that’s worse.” I don’t want to hear that. A simple ‘sorry’ will do, thank you very fucking much.
My co-worker emailed, “I’m so sorry. Please tell me his name. I’m going to Mass tomorrow and I’ll pray for him.” Thank you to everyone who contacted me and gave me their support. Thank you to those who prayed.
So many people. All of his friends, all of his family. Hundreds and hundreds of people at the viewing, the rosary, the funeral, the burial, the reception. His friends had T-shirts made, imprinted with his picture and the dates of his life. They wore them throughout the weekend and passed them out to his extended family. All of Ron Noah’s aunts and uncles on his mom’s side (including my dad) were there. With the exception of a few, all of us cousins were there. We were there to honor Ron Noah’s life, but also to support his immediate family. What was most heartbreaking for me was watching his parents grieve and to hear his three sisters and his girlfriend of five years give separate eulogies. The church, full of friends and family, collectively swiped away at tears as we heard these young women speak of this selfless brother and boyfriend.
As the priest reiterated at the rosary and the funeral, this is only the end of his earthly life and the beginning of his eternal life. We are a devout Catholic family and this is our belief. This is our faith. That death is not the end, it is the beginning. Another point the priest made that I really appreciated: a life is not described in years. 22 years is simply a number, an age. Rather life is a succession of memories. Memories that live on in all of us. So that during our time here on earth, those who have gone before us live on because of our memory of them and our shared experiences…until it is our time to join them and be with them in the after life.
I know my sister and I were honored that we were able to contribute to the funeral mass by giving the two readings. Here is an excerpt from my reading that comforts me.
2 Maccabees 12:43-46
It he were not expecting the fallen to rise again,
it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them
But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward
that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness,
it was a holy and pious thought.