While my heart is filled with a deep sadness, it is a great honor to be here with all of you today to celebrate the life of one of God’s most cherished children, Claudio Rodarte. On behalf of his brothers and sisters, his nieces and nephews and his wife, Christina, the family thanks all of you from the bottom of our hearts and from the depths of our souls for spending this day with us to remember and to say Goodbye.
In his nearly 41 years of life, my Tio Claudio spread joy, laughter, unconditional love and made an impression on every single person whose life he touched. And this I can decipher not only from the mark he left on my own life but from the magnitude of outpouring of kind words and prayer from friends and acquaintances but also, by the number of faces I see here today.
I spent the past few days attempting to find the best way to summarize the life of such a great and noble human being. I searched for inspiration; I looked up definitions and did research on this man. But Claudio Rodarte is a rare subject. There is no easy way to define this man we are here to remember and give thanks for. There is no one memory that defines Claudio as the Man we all knew and adored. Everyone who knew him as a child remembers a creative and carefree soul that grew into an explorer with a great desire to see beyond his own world. To live without barriers or boundaries, and to uncover the depths of his own soul. Claudio grew into a man with purpose and dedication. Dedicated not only to his family and his friends but to those who needed a champion. To all of us, who needed someone to show us that the end of a path is not the end, but simply a chance to change our original destination.
From a very young age, I remember looking up to my Tio Claudio; feeling an undeniable bond between us. He has always been my mentor, my surrogate big brother, on occasion I think he changed my diaper when I was a baby, and as I reached adulthood he was the one person in my life who could speak the truth to me from his soul that I could actually hear.
Once I reached out to family and friends of Claudio’s for inspiration I realized how many of you he left with the same impression. He was so many things to so many people. To my parents, Alisia his eldest sister and my father Danny, he was one of their kids before they had me and their memories of him date back to the days when his afro was in rare form and his passion for music was emerging. To his dear friends like Ingancio, he was an unconventional big brother and I’ve heard many of the unusual stories of which quite a few ended with calls to one of my other Tio’s for assistance. To his brothers and sisters he was their baby brother, and there is no way to define in words the friendship and bond between these siblings, that they have had since he came into this world.
And to his wife Christina, he was not just a husband, but a partner in this life and a best friend. I remember when he told me he knew she was the one, driving in his car on one of our many trips to the mall. I remember the tears he cried. I remember having to listen to the same Ozomatli song over and over again, while he dissected what it meant to him and how it reflected his relationship with this woman; until finally he had the courage to propose to Christina and make her a part of this immense family of his. Because that is what we all are today. We are Claudio’s family and we are all blessed to have made this journey in life with him.
It is fitting that Claudio chose the day of our Saint Valentine to leave us. I know I will never look at a chocolate heart or cupid the same way every again, and that day will forever mean something different to each one of us. I will miss this Man who was so much to so many of us in this lifetime. There will be days that we will reach out for Claudio’s words of wisdom and there will be moments when he is here with us to see us through, silently. He will always be that man; the brother, the husband, the uncle, the friend, the godfather, the nephew, the cousin…he will always be all those things no matter where his body rests because his soul has touched us all.
Whenever I felt my life was taking a turn down a path I could not handle, I would reach out for guidance and many times it was a quick phone call or an email to ask for his thoughts on the matter. Like the day my son was born 8 weeks early, and I was second guessing my choice to be a single Mom, he held my hand and asked me if I loved my child. And of course I said, ‘yes’.
He leaned down to me and whispered in my ear…
“Love is everything, Mija this is Love”
And as we have all learned from our time with Claudio, Love is the gift of life that God grants us. And God blessed us with the Life and the Love of Claudio Rodarte, something for which I will forever be grateful. Let us never forget that blessing.