A Mother's Journey

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from Uncle Robert

When I think of Sean, I think of music. The Beatles, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Boston. Yeah, Sean was 15 years old and loved my kind of music. How lucky was I to have a nephew who not only liked these kinds of bands, but played the guitar like them too. I think to myself…'How lucky was I?' Sean always had a guitar near him, sort of like Kyle with his football. Sean was getting so good this past year and sometimes I would hear him playing his guitar in one of the other rooms while I was in my bedroom. Now Sean was not shy playing his guitar in front of his mom or Kyle, and, he was getting used to playing it in front of me, but if he knew I was listening to him, I think he might have been a little bit more reserved how he played. So when I was in my room and would hear him start playing, I would turn down my tv or music and slowly open the door VERY quietly so he wouldn't hear me. Then I would sit in my room and hear him play his guitar. I can still hear him playing his guitar, and I can't quite put it into words, but it was soothing and amazing, and he was so good, and I was so happy to just hear him play, as the music just flowed through his fingers. It was a real treat for me to hear him this way because I really felt the music coming from his heart, from his natural talent. His passion for music was just like Kyle's passion for football…….pure. The one thing I loved to do when Sean, Maria, and I started playing together, was to sing with a Filipino accent and sometimes change the words. I could always make him laugh when I did that, it gave me a great sense of joy when I could make him laugh. Then sometimes he would join in with his Filipino accent. We always seemed to end up doing this to the Tommy Tutone song….867-5309. I loved making him laugh. Sean adored John Lennon and I don't think I could have asked for a better person for Sean to look up to because I know what John Lennon stood for….Peace and Love.

I had the best of both worlds with these two boys….music and sports…and IN 'N ' OUT BURGER. Every so often, I got to take the boys out to eat….and I have to tell you, I got so much satisfaction out of taking these two guys to In 'n' Out Burger with their voracious appetites. Kyle would always tell me that the last couple bites were the best because of all the sauce oozing out. It was like watching two lions devour their Zebra.

I love those two boys and I miss them so dearly…..they brought out the best in me and I am so proud to be their uncle.

from Conner

My whole family has been telling me how much of an influence I was on Sean. They're convinced that even his haircuts were influenced by mine. One time, Sean himself said that he wanted to follow in my footsteps. I know the context of it was specific to something that we were talking about, but nevertheless, it is the statement that has touched me more than anything. Now, I think about what an honor it is that such an incredibly smart, amazing young man looked up to me. He and I shared so many interests, everything from the Beatles to finding Bigfoot. We went through so many phases together; just about every time we saw each other, one of us would introduce the other to something new we had recently discovered. Every hobby that I got interested in, he would get into it too. And every time he would tell me about a cool TV series on the discovery channel or a new sitcom, I would watch an episode and then I'd be as hooked on it as he was. It's hard not to just reminisce about every common interest we shared. There were so many. We were so alike, but we were different in the way we went about our lives. The difference between us two was that I merely dipped my foot into many areas of interest, while Sean developed deeper passions. Sean and I took up the guitar at about the same time. I think I was eleven and Sean was eight. One of us found an incredible passion in the instrument that became an expression of deep emotion through music, and the other one of us quit playing the guitar after half a year. I don't think I have to tell you who stuck with it and who quit. He was the most passionate person I've known. You see, Sean saw the world for what it is: full of evil and decay. But there was no way he was going to let the world bring him down. No way. Sean knew what he wanted to do in this life, and he knew how he would accomplish it. Sean knew that only he could decide what was important in his life, only he could dictate what he would pursue and where he would invest his passion. And with everything that he chose to do, he brought so much life into this world. He did it through music. Our family always talks about how much Sean reminds us of John Lennon. He had the look, the music, but most of all he had the vision: The vision of what he thought the world could be. He showed us this vision in the music he played, the music he listened to, and what he placed importance on. One of the things I loved about Sean the most was his wicked funny sense of humor, and when he was around me, it was non-stop. We had so many inside jokes, and we'd feed off each other, trying to push each other to come up with something funnier than the other person could. Sean knew the importance of laughter-he made me laugh so hard, but more importantly, he helped me to find the comic relief in this bitter world. My family can't stop telling me how much of an impact I had on Sean. What I want them to know, though, is that Sean has influenced me far greater than I could have ever influenced him. I am so incredibly lucky that I had the pleasure of watching this boy grow up and witnessing his life. At age 15, he had a whole life's worth of wisdom. He was ahead of his time. When I look at Sean's life, it gives me hope for the future of the human race. It gives me hope that one day, we can put aside our many differences and rejoice in a common passion. It gives me hope that some day, whenever it may be, that we as a group can be united.

from Uncle Robert

As an uncle, I have so many memories of Kyle. So I started thinking, 'what are some of the first real solid memories I have of that kid.' He was such a sweet little shy kid with his uncle, and it was at that tender age of 2 that we shared a mutually embarrassing moment. I babysat the boys once in a blue moon and was always able to dodge the 'diaper changing duties'. Now you have to remember that I don't have any kids and didn't plan on having any diaper duties until then. I got past that with Sean, but, well ,that day finally came with Kyle. I remember hanging out with them in the family room at their house, just the three of us. Next thing I see, Kyle is squatting behind the coffee table and that distinct smell filled the room. I remember Sean saying to me, 'He went to the bathroom.' All I can remember thinking was 'Oh God'. I think I was more embarrassed than Kyle as we just looked at each other. I wasn't prepared for this. I was nervous and took a few deep breaths I'm sure. I asked Sean where the diapers were and he led Kyle and me into Kyle's bedroom. Sean opened the closet and pulled out the diapers and babywipes as Kyle laid down on the floor on top of a diaper changing sheet, at least that is what I think it was. I just stood there in nervous shock and embarrassment. The memory of going through the motions is so ingrained into me, but the exact conversation I had with Kyle is a blur. I can only remember talking to him about something so irrelevant while Sean helped me take off Kyle's shorts and dirty diaper. I think at that point I couldn't look into Kyle's eyes as he just laid there waiting to be serviced. I don't think he could look at me either. To this day, that has to be the most awkward contact I've had with Kyle. To my amazement, everything in the dirty diaper was solid and I thanked God for that. I remember talking to Kyle and asking him questions as he laid there as I wiped and cleaned him up. To this day, I still can't remember a word that we said to each other at that moment. Sean sat next to me, like a coach, handing me the wipes, taking the old diaper and handing me a new one. I would have given a thousand bucks to have a videotape rolling while I was being coached by a 4-year old, changing his 2-year old brother. And that was the first and last time I have ever changed a diaper, to this day. This is the first time I have ever shared this story outside of our family.

from Conner

At some point, during every family gathering, Kyle would ask me if I wanted to go outside and throw the football. I know that this is no surprise to anybody, because football is Kyle's passion, but in these instances, during our family gatherings, it was so much more. It was an unspoken agreement between us two: once we went outside with the ball, Kyle would use this as an opportunity to talk-just me and him. Obviously, the topic of our conversations was usually football. I know a pretty good amount about the NFL. But Kyle, on the other hand, had the entire history of football stored in his brain. Many times during our football talks, prideful as I am, I would have to pretend to know what he was talking about. And Kyle knew that. But regardless of how little I knew of the game compared to him, he always asked my opinion about everything: my favorite players from every position, my super bowl picks for the year, he'd even ask me to draw up plays for him to run right there, against an imaginary defense. It was during these one on one football talks that Kyle showed me how amazing it feels when another person genuinely cares about what you have to say. There was absolutely nothing from my football knowledge that I could have enlightened him with, because everything I knew about football I learned from Kyle. But you see, he wanted to share his passion and his love for football with me. During every single one of our talks, he only wanted to know about my opinion. There is nobody else on the face of this earth who could make me feel so important, so cared for, with such a simple gesture. I am so blessed that I had the chance to share Kyle's passion for football with him, and I'm so blessed that through his passion, he's taught me how important it is to let your loved ones know that you care about them. Kyle wanted to be the best, and his drive and his passion would not let him be any less. In every single thing that he did, he wouldn't accept anything less than victory. This was so amazing, and I know it has truly inspired everybody who has had the pleasure to know him. But Kyle's aspiration for greatness is not what touched me the most. What has inspired me is how even though Kyle made it his goal to be the very best, he didn't let it affect the way he treated everybody so lovingly, and it didn't keep him from enjoying every little thing in life, enjoying every experience, and loving his family and friends with all of his heart. You see, there are people who wish to be the best for all the wrong reasons. Kyle wasn't one of these people. Kyle took inspiration not from the possibility of money or fame, but from the possibility of influencing others by being the best at what he did, which was football. He had the kindest heart, the purest soul; he wanted nothing in return for his greatness, no rewards. He would never in a million years let his crusade for greatness put anyone else down. Unless you were on the opposite side of the football; because then he'd put you flat on your back. But then he'd help you right back up off the ground. His biggest inspiration for football was LaDainian Tomlinson, who served as a role model for many people, especially Kyle. Now, Kyle has filled the shoes of his biggest hero and he has become the inspiration for so many people that he had always strived to be, not as a professional football player, but as a person. Kyle has inspired me in a way that nobody else has, and I promise him that I will exemplify his greatness in everything I pursue. When I look at Kyle's life, it gives me hope for the individual. It gives me hope that people will see how he lived and realize the true power and impact that one life can have on this world.

from Uncle Ray

I'm Sean and Kyle's Uncle Ray, but they knew me as 'Uncle Buddy.' I really enjoyed making Sean and Kyle laugh, and it was easy. They would crack up at my stupid jokes, my bad impressions, or my weird observations. As you can see, most of my Sean/Kyle humor was visual-Kyle was an awesome athlete, but he was no match for his uncle's D-fence.

The boys and I grew up with Sponge Bob together, even after my own son matured and moved on to Family Guy. As Sean got older, he especially liked my dark sense of humor. My wife and kids usually groan when I tell a joke, but I could always count on Sean and Kyle when I wanted to make someone laugh.

When Sean was younger, his mom would occasionally bring him over for a haircut. I wasn't very good at cutting hair, but I'm very meticulous. So, these haircuts would take a long time. It probably seemed like hours for Sean, but he would never complain or squirm. He would just have a constipated look on his face as he let his uncle cut his hair. I think he must have decided after a few of these traumatic haircuts that he would grow his hair out, and I think most people will remember him with long hair.

And Kyle, I cut his hair for the first time just a few weeks ago. I guess Sean didn't warn him about his uncle's haircuts . . . but, as you can see (Kyle's haircut), not bad . . .

Sean and Kyle, even as teenagers, showed their mom so much affection all the time-hugging and holding her, sitting quietly with her, and they were never concerned if anyone was watching. I hope we can do the same with our parents because it's something they'll always cherish. I'll always remember that about Sean and Kyle, and I'll miss being called Uncle Bud.

from Tony

For the past four years, I have seen Sean and Kyle become part of my family and I part of theirs. I have seen Sean grow taller each year with every changing hair style and Kyle growing and flourishing into a great football player. We have shared many moments, laughs and meals. Maria and I have spent many weekends making breakfast for the kids watching the bacon get consumed as quickly as I made it. We had dinners hoping they enjoyed my cooking or even better, going to Tijuana for tacos. I have endured many NFL network replays, Mythbusters and episodes of the Office and hours of laughter that filled the house with Maria's and the boy's laughing. I enjoyed hearing their jam sessions and endless takes of Tequila Sunrise. Sean was so patient with his mother, the drummer, and his uncle, the bass guitar player, every time they messed up. Every time I looked at Kyle, I saw his mother's intelligence and fierce competitiveness. Kyle was always black and white, always factual, and if he knew you were wrong he would correct you. Sean was the opposite. When I looked at Sean I saw his mother's sensitivity and love for the world. Both of them embody their mother's heart, soul and spirit, and she embodies theirs. I will miss them greatly.

from Alicia

Hearing my aunt talk about how she has no regrets when it comes to her boys is so amazing to me. She has made the most of every second she had with them. But for me, I regret not taking advantage of all the extra times I could have spent with my incredible cousins. Growing up with them, I secretly tried so hard to be one of the boys. I wanted to be part of their group. I even remember in middle school I went through a whole tomboy stage where l tried to play every sport with them and fit in as much as I could. I even started dressing quite boyish. I have so many memories of how much fun we had making up silly games together. One of the many games we used to play was called the frog game… (Explain). I must say, I've always thought that the big reason why they didn't take after me more was because of my brother. Anyways…

I am so blessed to have gotten the opportunity to share my passion for art with my cousin Sean. Believe it or not, on many occasions I remember he would stay inside with me when the rest of the boys were outside playing and we would sit at the kitchen table making all sorts of artsy stuff. That meant the world to me. He would teach me how to make bracelets and lanyards while I would teach him how to draw. That boy had so much creativity flowing out of him at all times. It was not only inspiring, but it also challenged me to think deeper about my own work. I will forever continue to honor him and his brilliantly creative spirit through my art.

And Ky-Ky… To me, Kyle will always be so pure and innocent. There was not a single mean bone in his body. Even when he was little he never had a problem sharing. He graciously took whatever was given to him and never asked for anything more. Everything about that boy is so beautiful. The way he would giggle so sweetly will be forever instilled in my heart. I hold on to the belief that his everlasting joy and drive in life will carry me through this.

I have taken so much from both Sean and Kyle, but my individual promises to them are:

Kyle- I will focus more on the simplicity of life and appreciate the little things. I will no longer place such a large importance on material things, but instead enjoy the beauty of life. The amount of heart and energy you put into everything you were a part of is how I want to live my life. You never settled for anything Ky. You blew out all your competition and were destined to be the best. You not only set high aspirations, you wouldn't stop until you achieved them. Kyle, you taught me to never give up on the things I love. I will keep chasing my dreams just as intently as you chased yours. I will use your everlasting energy as my fuel to keep going. And thanks to you, I will always remember to be confident in myself because I learned from you that quiet confidence speaks louder than any words at all. You never felt the need to brag about your skills. In fact, I do enough bragging about you myself. The amount of talent and discipline you have blows me away, boy. I remember coming into the living room and seeing the TV paused on the NFL Network and you would just be sitting there, your lips moving ever so slightly trying to memorize all of the stats. I would be willing to bet anyone that you can answer more questions about football than them. It is like that game was created specifically for you.

Sean- I want to carry on your legacy and passion for change through my teaching. I want to encourage my kids to be their own person because whoever was blessed with the chance to know you would certainly know what a one-of-a-kind kid you are. You never cared what people thought of you. You never tried to change for anyone. You have always known who you are and never had a problem showing it. I love you for that. There is no one in this world like you cuz, and your knowledge of this world is something far beyond my comprehension. However, you have taught me to embrace who I am and not conform to society's norms and expectations. If we are all constantly trying to be the same how are we living meaningful lives. We are blessed with the capability to be whoever we want to be, yet I've seen very few people who actually take advantage of this. Sean, you have not only embodied this gift, you have spread it on to so many people. Your love for bright colors describes exactly how I see you in my life. You are the flame that will never be put out. You will light up my life forever and show me the way when I'm in my darkest place.

There are two extremely special places in my heart that I will forever hold for my amazing cousins, Sean and Kyle. I love you boys more than words could ever express.

from Aunt Robin

On Saturday night, it was the first time my house was quiet, the crowds had left, and Maria was fast asleep. It was the first opportunity that I had to sit with my kids and husband to talk about what we wanted to say about Sean and Kyle at the service.

I asked myself what I should say. Should I talk about what a beautiful baby Kyle was and how everybody who met this Gerber poster child suggested that Kyle be a baby model? How many of us would agree that all his life he was as handsome as any model alive?.

Should I mention that Sean was our little Buddha baby with rolls and rolls of adorable baby fat? I know that is hard to believe if you are a friend of this tall, lanky, young man..

Should I talk about all of the games that my kids and the boys invented when they were little? You might not know that in addition to loving music, Sean was an incredible artist when he was young, while Kyle was our little master of numbers and statistics..

As I sat reminiscing with my family, my mind traveled back to those childhood days, and I started to remember all the times that I had picked up Sean from school when he was little and tried desperately to get him to talk during the car ride to my house. Those car rides were filled with caveman grunts and monosyllabic responses to my endless inquiries about his day at school. Then, one day it all changed. Sean had been in a little play at school that day. On that day in the car, he forgot all of his little boy shyness, and he excitedly told me about every detail of his exciting part in the play. At that moment of bonding, I was sure that little Sean was going to be an actor rather than an artist at that time. The musician in him had not yet emerged..

I then thought that maybe I could tell you all about all of the family games during which Kyle, as the youngest of the cousins, never let anybody intimidate him. Anybody who knows Kyle, knows that he is a competitor who can hold his own in any competition, whether it is a game of Trivial Pursuit, or a football game on the field..

After a lot of thought, though, I decided to describe a picture that will stay in my heart forever. It is a picture of those two teenage boys cuddling with their mom on the sofa. It is a picture of those beautiful, beautiful boys walking through the family room to the kitchen and stopping to give their mom a hug on the way. It is a picture of a mom whose whole world has been those boys. When they talk, she drops everything and listens. When they want an adventure, she is the person who joins them. When they laugh, she laughs the loudest. .

In closing, I would like to add some words of comfort to all of us who love these two boys and feel the emptiness in our lives. Those two boys lived a lifetime in the few years that they had with us on this earth. Those two boys have traveled to so many places around the world with their mom. Those two boys have been allowed to pursue every dream that they had and wear any clothes or hairstyles that suited their quirkiness, (You all know that I am talking about Sean right now.) They were surrounded by love every day of their lives by their incredible mother, family, and all of you, who will continue to love these boys and hold them in your hearts. I take comfort in knowing that right now they are with their beloved grandmother who never got a chance to watch them grow up, and she is probably making them her famous pancakes right now that she always wanted to make them..