Virgen: Recent deaths remind me to love life

If it's true that life is how you perceive it, then death should not really have so much sting.

But in truth, the death of a loved one can shatter a home, break hearts and dramatically change lives.

So just how does one overcome death of a loved one, a family member? Is it really about perception?

Through my experiences I have found that it's not about the ability to overcome death. It's more about coping, adjusting and gaining support from friends and others. And as trite as it may sound, it's about making the most of each day.

Recently, death, in tragic form, fell upon the Newport-Mesa community. Newport Harbor High School endured the loss of booster Anthony Zavala and Costa Mesa the loss of Kyle Johnson, a firefighter. Both were devoted fathers and both continue to be missed by many.

I also empathized with my friends Melanie and Ed Fitch because Ed's father, Edward, died at 93 a few days before Father's Day. Late at night on June 15, Father's Day, I looked up at the sky as I sat on a bench on Balboa Island in front of the Dad's Original Balboa Bar shop. I was frustrated about my laptop computer, which had been stolen after I accidentally left it there. All that remained were my bag and, thankfully, mementos in it.

I stared up as I sat near the St. John Vianney chapel and stressed about the challenges in my life.

In the morning, I woke and checked Facebook, seeing what Costa Mesa High Cheer Coach Kori Johnson and her family were going through. Her husband, Kyle, had died after being involved in an automobile accident. I wept and felt guilty that I had worried about such short-term trials.

I cried for Johnson and her family because of the thoughts I had of my own father, Julian, who died of leukemia when he was 50 and I was 18.

I still miss him, the man who introduced me to sports and always encouraged me to pursue writing. Cancer is cruel, and his death was painful. At one point, the medication from the chemotherapy dissolved the loving personality I had always known, but, thankfully, that was not the state he was in when he left us.

He continued to encourage, and reminded me about the importance of faith and life before his final breath.

Both Anthony Zavala and Kyle Johnson lived their lives with great joy for each day, I learned by speaking to their friends and reading the pages of the Daily Pilot.

Through those experiences, I also realized the importance of a supportive community. It's the type of support that can help these families deal with such great sadness and somehow carry on.

The support isn't about how you perceive it. It's about breaking down and rebuilding. It's about love, not only for each other, but for life.

STEVE VIRGEN is sports editor of the Daily Pilot.

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