They had come to enjoy the baby blue skies, eat homemade cookies and
make sense of something very terrible.
Visitors laughed and smiled as they jumped on one of three bounce
houses, played volleyball and occasionally rocked out to the
amplified sounds of a local jam band. In between bites of pasta salad
and fried chicken, the more than 1,000 people in attendance at
Friday's party in Southeast Huntington Beach shared memories -- some
happy, others embarrassing -- of 17-year-old William "Cody" Roy,
killed in a July 16 car accident just outside of Parker, Ariz.
The good spirits of the party were a sharp departure from the sad
memorial service earlier in the day. For nearly two hours, funeral
goers sobbed and silently reflected on the death of Roy, a popular
student at Edison High School, where he was set to return as a senior
and play running back in the football program.
Roy's father, Don Roy, said he wanted party-goers to have a good
time and view his son's death as a "promotion into heaven."
"A lot of people perceive death as a bad thing, but it's not
necessarily true," Don Roy said. "I am sincerely happy for him. I'm
just really sad for us, because now we are going to miss him."
Cody Roy leaves behind two sisters -- Siobahne, 16, and Chloe, 9 -- as well as his mother Geri. The party and service, both brimming
with evangelical Christian undertones, were also a way for Don Roy to
make some sense of his son's death.
"Bottom line is that God has to use deep pain in our life to teach
us," Don Roy said. "It's an accident in our eyes, but it's not an
accident in God's eyes."
Don Roy said he received a call from authorities in Arizona that
his son had been in an accident with two other youths, and there had
been one fatality.
"Basically there was a one in three chance that my son had died,"
Don Roy said. "We started driving for Parker, when we received a call
from the Highway Patrol. They notified us that he was dead. We turned
around and drove home. It was the longest trip of my life."
Authorities in Arizona did not return phone calls for information.
However, Don Roy and others at the memorial service said the crash
occurred after Cody Roy and his friends had been drinking, and they
stressed the message that drinking and driving are a dangerous mix.
Pastor John Boyer who presided over the service at First Christian
Church, said he hoped young people would take Cody Roy's death to
heart and think more closely about their own actions.
"I got angry because this is so preventable," said Boyer, who was
also one of Roy's football coaches at Edison High School. "You get so
frustrated with bad decision-making."
During the service, Boyer's voice sounded shaky as he tried to
come to terms with his player's death.
"We have been deeply affected by hurt and pain," he told the
sobbing crowd. "We can remember Cody, but let's not glamorize him.
That final decision he made was a bad choice."
Don Roy said he believes his son's death was meant to bring more
young people into the Christian faith.
"My son was able to make friends in all the different groups in
school," Don Roy said. "He's the kind of kid who could reach so many
people. He could pack the house, if you will."
About 2,000 people attended Cody Roy's funeral, including the
entire Edison High School football team dressed in jerseys.
"He was a phenomenal guy," friend Andrew Nehrig said. "I just
loved everything about him. He was the kindest guy, you know, and he
bonded with tons of people."