Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jose's Memorial

The memorial for Jose Maria Montoya was held Sunday afternoon at the Proud Bird Restaurant near the Los Angeles Airport, an establishment celebrating the history of aviation. I was informed of the event Saturday morning by Tianna, our lovely resident manager, and was told I'd be asked to say a few words about the passing of my dear friend. I immediately used my computer to prepare something to say, which took several hours. Unfortunately as I attempted to print what I had written I remembered that my printer was out of ink. Not being able to read my own writing I planed to print the material at the downtown Kinko's Sunday morning which is open 24 hours a day. Unfortunately again, the Kinko's establishment had been taken over by Staples, which apparently is not open 24 hours, and was closed when I went there. So I decided to recite from memory what I had written.
I was the only one at the memorial who was not a member of Jose's family as I arrived, and accordingly spent a great deal of time standing around by myself feeling rather awkward and nervous about remembering exactly what I had written. Tianna and her lovely daughter didn't help matters much by showing up about a half hour late. Fortunately, Jose's lovely sister Marietta did help matters by taking me in hand and introducing me to everybody in an effort to put me at ease and to explain to everybody else who this hulking stranger was who was intruding in their private family matters.
After everyone was finally seated at their respective tables in the exquisite dinning room, and Tianna arrived, I noticed Marietta tell her that she would be speaking just after Jose's pastor. She did not mention anything to me, however, and I assumed I would not be saying anything.
The pastor spoke, Tianna spoke... and then I was called to speak. Rather flustered, I remembered only about one quarter of what is written below, not doing Jose the justice I had intended, but the family seemed happy with what I stammered out in any case which eased my mood a good deal.
So the following is the memorial I prepared for my friend Jose (his families nickname for him I discovered was "Cowboy"), and what I should have said at the event, and yes I will buy more ink.

My name is Rick Joyce, and along with Jose's case manager Paul, I probably knew Jose best during his last months. I met him after he moved into our hotel and he began to show up at the various support groups and meetings that are held there on a weekly basis. He was always so eager to participate, which in itself is unusual. We soon got to know each other rather well and we became friends. Thinking about it I don't think I had much choice in the matter as Jose seemed to latch on to me for some reason, and he was such a nice and open man that I couldn't help but like him greatly. He started showing up at my door asking me to come down to his room and show him how to do something on his computer. After a while he just began showing up at my door just to say hello, and I started showing up at his door to do the same. We both kept our doors open partially during the day, and I think my fondest memories of him are when he was standing at my door, several times a day, smiling down at me as I sat working on my computer, and his delighted little chuckle, which I'm sure you're all familiar with, when I said something that amused him. My case manager Erin recently told me that that chuckle lit up her day every time she heard it, and it lit up my day as well.
We soon began to go out to eat, to a movie on his last birthday (although Jose said he did not celebrate brithdays, it happened that was the one day we went to a movie), or when he wanted me to accompany him when he wanted to shop for something. It was my job to make sure he got up for the various meetings or events. "Come and get me," he would say. Apparently the operation of his alarm clock perplexed him. "It keeps getting me up at eight o'clock," he would tell me. "Well change the alarm time, Jose," I'd tell him, and he'd just shake his head and chuckle. He could operate his computer, digital camera, and his plasma TV, but that alarm clock stifled him.
We became great friends although we didn't have a whole lot in common, but I saw in Jose a simple honesty and sincerity, a complete lack of guile that is so rare in downtown Los Angeles... rare in the world really. I told Erin about a month before he died that Jose was one of the two people I knew who I could trust completely, and I believe he trusted me as well.
I only knew him for five or six months, but I can tell you that he has changed my life forever, by the his example in how he lived his life, the way we interacted, his childlike quality, our caring for each other, and I will never forget him. I know he had his share of troubles in the past, although he didn't talk about it much, but I can tell you that in his last months he was happy and content, eager to be with others, free from the demons of schizophrenia, actively trying to make his life better, and looking forward to the future. Everybody who knew Jose either loved him as I did, or liked him intensely, because that was just the way he was. A very open and likeable man.
He liked to lie on his bed watching his big screen TV, watching his cartoons, CSI, or Little House on the Prairie, or studying his Bible, as he was very active in his church.
He came to my door last Wednesday morning when he knew something was wrong, and knocked on it loudly. I opened it to find him lying on the floor of the hallway looking up to me for help, and we immediately called 911 to get help on the way. We did everything we could to save him but it wasn't enough. He was a stickler for truth and accuracy and can fondly tell you that his last words were, "forty two," as he corrected me when I misspoke his age to the 911 dispatcher.
It's my understanding that Jose's beliefs were that he would see life after death after being resurrected by God to live forever in an earthly paradise. I know he will live forever in my heart, and in that hearts of the many whose lives he touched. He is greatly loved and missed, and I was proud to have him as a friend.


  1. ~ Richard,
    I do not even know where to begin!! I just want to tell you how much your words touched me!! It makes my heart happy to know that Cowboy or Jose as you called him had such a wonderful caring friend!! Just knowing how happy he was in the past few months makes me somehow feel better. Knowing that he did not die alone, but surrounded by friends. Thank you for being so good to him and caring so much for him!! He was lucky to have you for a friend. I know that you will miss your friend so much and for this I am sorry!!! But again, I just want to say thank you!! It was really nice to see a true friend there for Jose!! Thank you again!!

  2. Rick:
    What a wonderful tribute to your friend. I’m sure his family is very appreciative for your thoughtful words. I’m astonished by how few "friends" we have as we go thru life. To find a friend that you can admire and trust is truly a special person. I’m sorry for the loss. Keep your chin up and a smile on your face and think of Jose often.