As if it were yesterday, I can still see him sitting in the back semi-circle of desks in my classroom, next to Kevin (Hilgenfeld). I see his smile. I picture him laughing as he tells me, once again, that his favorite sign is “poop” because it’s such a funny word---spelled the same forward and backward (a palindrome).
I first met Nic Garcia when he took American Sign Language I with me at McAllen High School his freshman year. I was blessed to have Nic again his sophomore year for ASL II. That was the year he sat next to Kevin.
Adorable, smart, and silly. Those are the first three of many words I could use to describe him. Nic had a joy for life that made all of the other students in my class love him. He had a stubborn side that could turn on my best stern lecture and a grin that could make it quite difficult to remain stern. Wherever Nic went, you could expect there to be laughter and happiness.
Nic was blessed with amazing parents, Teclo and Danae. I had to call them from time to time, and each time I did, they were incredibly supportive. I knew Nic was one of the lucky kids, blessed with loving, involved parents.
I retired from McHi in 2013, but I got to see Nic, a stand-out linebacker for McHi, in a couple of games his senior year. I was so proud of him. Nic graduated from McHi in May of 2014.
Then, about four months ago, I saw Teclo at Freedom Fitness. He told me how proud he was of Nic and how much better he was doing. Perplexed, I asked what he meant. He told me Nic had been battling addiction for quite some time. Those proverbial chains had quite a hold on him, but Nic, along with his parents and his younger brother, Zac, had been fighting hard to break them. Teclo told me Nic had started refereeing and was so excited to be back in the sports arena, this time on the other side of the ball.
I left the gym with a heavy yet hopeful heart. It truly hurt me to know that Nic had been lured into drugs, as far too many kids (and adults) are. I could tell in Teclo’s words, and in his eyes, that the struggle had been real…and challenging…and painful. But I also felt gratitude that Nic had such a strong support system so he didn’t have to try to break those chains alone. I felt hopeful that his sobriety, though one day at a time, would last forever so Nic would have a long and joyful life.
On the morning of Saturday, August 6, I received a text message from one of my close friends.
“Do you know Teclo Garcia?” it read.
“Yes. ???” I responded.
“His son died today.”
I immediately called her, and she was crying. Voice shaking, I asked, “Nic?”
“Yes,” she responded.
She told me Teclo and Danae had discovered Nic that morning. He had died as a result of a drug overdose.
That smile. That laughter. That stubbornness. That joy of life.
Adorable, smart, silly Nic was gone.
NOTE: Next week, I will share last Wednesday’s candlelight vigil for Nic with you. Nic’s friends, McAllen’s police chief, Nic’s football coach, and Nic’s parents have messages that should be shared with all of our kids---all of them.
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.