Celebrating a Life Gone Too Soon
There are certain moments in life you just don’t forget - each detail, word and emotion is forever etched in your memory. Two weeks ago, we were hit with the painful reality that Alicia had passed away. Just two weeks prior, Jennifer and I were feverishly planning a birthday party for Alicia (complete with a Frida cake and Lion King show tunes) and now here we were in a Funeral Home writing her eulogy and choosing flower arrangements. Life is unpredictable and -somehow, someway - we as humans have this ability to tap into strength we never knew we had to not just stay afloat, but swim against the roughest of currents.
A few of Alicia’s friends and family had asked me to post the eulogy I shared at her memorial service. Admittedly, I was trying to put this off because sharing something I emotionally wrote during some of my most broken moments made me feel vulnerable. A couple days ago, I sleuthed around and was able to revive Alicia’s blog and found an entry she wrote after her mother’s funeral, in which she shared the eulogy she wrote for Filomena. She starts off the post with this, “I would like to share my eulogy I wrote for my mother because I want her legacy to live on and for the world to know about her beautiful spirit.”
So, while I’m still struggling with how and why I even had to write a eulogy for my 31 year old friend who had so much more life to live, here I am...sharing this with you because in Alicia’s own words, “I want her legacy to live on and for the world to know about her beautiful spirit.”
On behalf of Joe Cota and his entire family, we would like to thank you for being here. While I think we can all agree that we wish we didn’t have to be here today, the outpouring of love, support and kindness that has been shown by each of you has brought comfort to Joe during this immeasurable loss.
I met Alicia about 6 years ago, we were out with mutual friends and I was immediately drawn to the beautiful girl with gorgeous long hair, bright red lipstick and a smile that could draw anyone in. I left that night thinking there was something different about her - she was so talkative, kind and welcoming.
Within a few hours, she sent me a Facebook Friend request and the next morning sent me a message asking if I liked playing Tetris to which I responded, “Yeah, I’m actually really good at Tetris.” She sent me a message back and said, “I’m sure I’m better at Tetris than you. Game on.” I’d never admit this to her, but she was indeed much better at Tetris than me.
She invited me to dinner a few days later, we met at small cute Italian restaurant because she loved supporting local family owned businesses, we talked for hours and after she invited me back to her place to continue the conversation. When we got there, she told me that she was hoping I’d come over after so she had gone to the local Persian Market to buy Persian tea and a gold tea set to brew a cup or two for her new Persian friend.
She was so hospitable and loved making people feel welcomed…even if she barely knew them. Our friendship progressed quickly, quicker than I was used to, but it truly felt like we had always and would always be friends. Alicia was an only child, so she treated her cousins like siblings and friends like family. I’m an only child too, but it wasn’t until I met Alicia that I understood why only children love others a little differently. Within a couple of months, I told her I was apartment hunting for the first time…a couple of Gmail Chat sessions later, we were looking at apartments together. My mom was a little concerned about me moving in with someone I barely knew, so she met up with us to see one of the properties and within minutes fell in love with Alicia. I mean, who wouldn’t?
Her parents had raised her right and the love her parents would shower upon her was always evident. Her mom would always show up unexpectedly on weekends with breakfast and gifts, her dad would come by with new flowers to plant in our garden or just to do some handy work to make sure our living situation was always better than ideal. Alicia was the apple of Joe and Filomena’s eyes and they were always the center of her world.
That summer, we began meeting one another’s friends and families and it felt like our place had an open door policy…a WIDE open door policy. We always had someone over and one of our friends could usually be found crashing on our futon in the living room. My friends and family were instantly drawn to Alicia and wanted me to bring her everywhere I went. She’d also insist on me joining her wherever she went – whether it was to hangout with her friends who she’d known for decades or ones she had just met. One thing became apparent really quickly, EVERYONE felt like they had always been and would always be friends with her. It’s just who she is. She’s welcoming, never judgmental, hospitable, laughs louder than anyone in the room and is always the last to leave the dance floor.
This past week, as I looked through the flood of Facebook tributes on her wall, I loved reading all the stories from her friends across the globe. Alicia didn’t have a type – she truly had a gift for accepting anyone and everyone exactly as they were. She would not only befriend others, but maintain those friendships for years to come. Looking around right now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the person she was to each of us and her magnetic personality that attracts such quality individuals.
Living with Alicia is hands down one of the best things I ever did. There was always an adventure in store. She made the most mundane of tasks like grocery shopping or doing the laundry hysterical and memorable. We would laugh until we cried, we would prank call our friends and ex-boyfriends for hours, we would shop until we dropped, spy on our neighbors who had more drama than the cast of Jersey Shore and host the most epic parties…I mean, the memories are truly countless. We shared moments of intense joy and we shared moments of intense pain - high highs and low lows. Whether it be new jobs, relationships or her mother’s long, heartbreaking battle with lupus – Alicia relentlessly fought to be the best version of herself and handle life’s challenges the best she could.
Alicia truly was a fighter. She fought for her family, she fought for her friends, she fought for her career, she fought for love, she fought for justice and she fought for her self-improvement. She volunteered often - whether it was as a dog walker for disabled senior citizens and blind pugs or as a librarian at the San Francisco Homeless Shelter. She’s read more books than anyone I have ever met, journaled meticulously and if there was any type of inspirational speaker coming to San Francisco, you better believe she had tickets to see them speak. Just a few weeks ago she got accepted into Graduate School. She was so excited to reach this milestone and embark on a new journey. There is truly nothing she didn’t do on her pursuit of living her best life.
One of Alicia’s favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein, we even had it framed in our first apartment. It reads “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” This past year I went through some difficult days and Alicia was there for me in ways I could never imagine. She would always do the sweetest things for her friends, like send cards or have flowers randomly delivered to those she loved.
To get through my rough patch, I started obsessively going to SoulCycle, a popular group fitness class, and whenever she’d agree, I’d drag Alicia with me. Alicia would laugh so hard because I love quoting my SoulCycle instructors. They would share the most inspirational and encouraging messages in class and I’d always share them with Alicia. Since she was no stranger to self-help and motivational forces, she’d just laugh at me and say “Oh my gosh, you lovvvvvvve SoulCycle.” A few days before she passed away, I told her “You know, I think the reason why I love SoulCycle is because it reminds me of your favorite quote. ‘Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving.’ It’s like when the instructor yells ‘STAY WITH ME. KEEP RIDING. KEEP THE BEAT.’ If you just try to keep the beat and stay with me, I know you can chase happiness.” A few hours later she text me, “I like what you said. Chase happiness. I think I can do that, I think I can stay focused and chase happiness. I’m really trying and as long as I have my passport, I will chase happiness. I’m so lucky to have people like you here for me. Thanks for sending that. I needed the reminder.”
For reasons we’ll all never understand, we can’t watch Alicia chase happiness here on earth with us anymore, but in the moments when I can look past the heartbreak we’re all feeling right now, I know that girl who loved so deep, who never hid her emotions - whether it be joy, surprise, anger or sadness - is now free and chasing happiness until we get to join her.
I think together, as people who knew and loved Alicia, we can promise to chase happiness. We can promise to fight to be the best version of ourselves.
I could stand here for hours sharing memories of Alicia and lessons we can take out of her short book, but I think this quote by Plato that she loved and had in her email signature says it best, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”