That eerie feeling

I wasn’t sure what to title this. Something’s been on my mind the whole month. I just haven’t been able to properly express it. So, I feel obligated to do it in this space here.

I’ll start by saying I’ve lost a friend before. It happened six years ago. Death is something we all experience. Some handle it well while others well, don’t. We all grieve in our own ways. I’ll never forget the phone call I got about our close friend who tragically passed on. I won’t rehash the details because to this day, they remain sketchy. In respect for his lovely family who we all have gotten to know, something positive did come out of it. Proof that shining stars exist.

Since that sad tragic day on May 21, 2010, I’ve known other people who passed away. The only difference is it didn’t involve immediate family members. I guess when it’s a friend or someone we know, it’s different. At least for me, I’ve discovered it. There is more hurt and pain inside. Something I can’t explain. If it’s a close personal friend, it’s understandable. But if it’s someone we knew by face, it still weighs heavily. Especially when you knew they were a good person.

Sometimes, you just know. I’m very good at reading people. On July 31 of this year, our block lost someone like that. Her name was Deanna Rose Gioia. She was 35 and had just given birth to a beautiful 2-month old daughter named Adrianna Rose. I found out through Facebook of a childhood friend who also lives on our block. When I first saw it, my initial reaction was, ‘Oh no. Not her.’ I didn’t want to believe it. When you hear such awful news, that’s a natural reaction.

This was someone I liked when I was younger. Someone who delivered the newspapers following in the footsteps of her older brother Joe. We went to the same high school. He was the reason I began delivering the Staten Island Advance as a teenager. That eerie feeling of knowing his younger sister was really gone hit me hard. Especially when I read about her family’s story. It was the stuff of fairy tale. Deanna had worked at the same store as her future Husband when they were younger. They lost touch but then got reacquainted by chance. As if it were destiny.

Reading their story touched me. Knowing that their daughter wouldn’t have a Mom to help raise her made me feel very sad. I was raised by two great parents who always had and still have my best interests. They’ve always supported me in everything I do. Even when I’ve struggled.

Simply put, you can’t replace a Mom. Believe me. I know. My Mom still texts me every day and calls me frequently. She still worries about my well being all these years later. Good parents never stop caring. I consider myself and younger brother Justin lucky. Even though they separated after 28 years and our Mom remarried, we still are a family. It took a long time to get over the heartache and pain of being apart. That is never easy.

I’ve noticed something special. Often when tragedies occur, it brings out the best in people. Everyone comes together and rallies as a community. The opposite of what’s going on with our country. If we just all treated each other the way we want to be treated and with respect, we’d be a better and stronger society.

In the following article that appeared in The Advance, Deanna’s husband Richard set up a GoFundme page to help him raise his daughter Adrianna Rose. There have been so many who have donated to help their family in need. Like most, I gave what I could. Thus far, they’ve raised over $75,000.

Reading first hand accounts of Deanna, it was like I thought. She was someone who cared deeply for others. She became a registered nurse who worked at Staten Island University Hospital. Her sudden death was a shock to our neighborhood. Seeing how much she helped others is a testament to the kind of person she was.

It’s unfortunate that her daughter will never get the chance to be raised by her Mom. However, when you see all the unselfishness from people who have contributed, it speaks very highly. All hope is not lost.

It’s still eerie for me passing their car and house. The somber and chilly feeling never goes away. The same can be echoed for my close friend who has been gone for six years. I still can’t believe it. He didn’t even make it to 21. Yet was the most gifted, talented and heart worthy person I knew. Futuristic in every sense. He may not be around in the present sense but his spirit is still alive. I can feel it every time we hear his fantastic beats he created at our friend’s place. A true shining star.

What I’ve learned is that Shining Stars truly exist. They’re the special ones who are always there for you no matter what. They last forever.

 

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Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.

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