Sometimes you search and find something to write about, while at other times the writing finds you. Such is the case with this blog entry, as yesterday I woke up to find that a young man, 26 year-old Crafton Hills College student Adam Yahel Diaz, whom I had just seen the evening prior, had passed away in car accident while driving to San Francisco early Friday morning.
During the entire day on Friday, I received Facebook messages, phone calls and emails from the Crafton Hills Community, both students and educators alike, all with the strong need to process the tragedy that just unfolded before us -processing that took the form of planning events, recalling memories and telling stories of our personal relationships with Adam.
At the outset, please understand that I knew far more about Adam, from friends and colleagues, than I actually personally knew Adam. I was not a close friend nor confidante, just a person who had occasional informal encounters with him and who frequently heard others speak very highly of him.
It seems everyone knew him.
Crafton Hills is a community college. The nature of these institutions is generally one of transience, in that most students juggle work, school, family, while finding little time to work on building a sense of community as “real life” is just too demanding. This is what set Adam apart from the majority of students, he not only strove to build community, he embodied it.
Unlike High School, where you have the “popular” crowd, the community college has no such social stratification. However, if you were to choose the “popular kid” at Crafton Hills, it would have been Adam Yahel Diaz. He was that guy everyone seemed to know from somewhere. Why? Because you did not go to Adam, he, eventually, came to you.
And he seemed to go everywhere. I know because Adam came to me.
Adam was involved in school governance, the arts program, campus life and just about any event that worked to build community on the campus. I had never met him, though knew of him, until early March when he approached me about delivering a speech for our campus wide event, Day of Advocacy, with a topic entitled, “Securing the Blessings: On a Healthy Relationship Between Church and State.”
This speech was so Adam. It was about building bridges between groups -in this case church and state- coming together and putting aside our differences for the sake of unity—for the sake of community. Adam had never been my student so I never really was able to coach him up in a way I would have liked. The speech itself was not always terribly clear…but that mattered so little, if at all.
Because, as I quickly learned with Adam, it was about who he was…not necessarily what he said. His spirit reverberated enormous positive energy and brilliance of light. You might not have known exactly where he was always going with an idea but, wherever it was, you wanted to go with him. We wanted in on that positive energy train—his spirit was strong, captivating, genuine and undeniable. If only all my students could tap into their inner charisma the way he did, our campus, hence, our world, would never be the same.
As my dad used to say, Adam was the kind of guy that could probably sell snowballs to Eskimos—but Adam was not a salesman. Rather, he freely gave away his positive and powerful energy to all those in his presence.
His smile was pleasantly and permanently etched on his face.
When such a tragic passing takes place, many begin the struggle to “make sense” and attempt to answer life’s deepest question: Why? It is, perhaps, the ultimate tension.
Yet, such a question might only lead one down the road of false hope, at best, and, at worst, utter frustration and bitterness.
It is not time to focus on the “why” but rather the “what”—as in what are the gifts, the lessons, the blessings that Adam graced us with and how we can we, the community of Crafton Hills College and beyond, carry these on in his honor and on his behalf?
I respect faith. In fact, I respect faith so much I would never cheapen it with my frail interpretation of how it plays out in life…and death. A wise friend of ours once told us a saying that resonated so deeply we keep it permanently displayed in our home: “I would never worship a God I could fully understand.”
Is this passing part of a universal plan? Whether it is or it is not, it makes little difference. I am the type of person who focuses on what I do know and not things I cannot possibly know -at least with any degree of certainty.
And what do we know?
I know that shortly after finding out this news, a colleague called me up in tears. “I just wrote him three letters of recommendation for three Ivy league school this past week,” she said. This only testifies to the fact he never waited for colleges or life to come to him, he always went to them. I know this.
We know Adam was a builder. He proactively built relationships, bridges, and, above all, community –a nice touch for a community college.
And now we find that real life has come to us in a tragic and powerful way. We know that we must now accept and live with this new reality that Adam is no longer among us, physically. Yet, we also know he leaves all of us with a bevy of powerful gifts, lessons and blessings that we have the duty to carry on. We have an obligation to come together as a community, express our love and concern for one another, and live in a manner that Adam desired for us all.
We will miss you Adam.
You came to us…and now none of us will ever be the same.
(A memorial will be held at Crafton Hills College on Tuesday, April 14 at 1:00pm in the LRC building. Perhaps this will be a good starting point in continuing to build the community Adam so jovially worked towards)
Really sad to hear this. I. Didn’t really know him but he was in my math class first semester of college and he really did give out that positive feel to the classroom. All that you said in this post is very true
We need to live life as if each day may be our last. I personally try my best. Thanks for your thoughts Casey.
Thank you for writing this… you are so very true with your words. I didn’t go to him, he came to me… when he first did I first thought to myself who is this tattooed up dude talking to me. We talked for about an hour and I walked away thinking, wow what an awesome guy. Anytime I was having a bad day I swear he would find me and uplift me. I wish I had spent even more time with him. I had many questions for him and many conversations to be had, I just thought I had plenty of time. I thought I would see him go on and pursue his dreams as I pursued mine. I thought he was someone who would always be there… I always said there are two types of students at Crafton, on one side Adam Diaz on the other side the rest of us…. this post really helped me. I feel gutted from the loss. He was something else, no one like him. I only hope I can learn from him and move foward. We can keep that energy and love he had at Crafton…. thanks again for this blog from the bottom of my heart. Your a great writer and explained him beautifully.
Although I didn’t know him well I was there for his speech on the Day of Advocacy and while I disagree with his thoughts on the subject his heart seemed to be in the right place. Definitely was a passionate person with a lot to offer. Unfortunate situation and yet another reminder to live life to the fullest.
Jimmy how do I share this on Facebook? Adam was a friend of mine he actually stayed with my best friends mother that’s how I knew him. They would love to read this!
Just copy and paste the link right off my blog. Pretty simple. I am so pleased they would appreciate this.
I too am sadden by the news of Adam’s death. I met Adam just recently, He was in my American Lit class this semester. I rode with him to the Honor’s Conference a couple of Saturdays ago, where he gave a presentation on the Crusades. We spent the time, during the drive to UC Irvine and back, talking about religion, literature and music. What I like about him is that he put so much time and thought into forming his view-points. His first choice for college this fall was to attended UC Berkeley. Berkeley, Crafton, his friend, his family, the world, will never know what Adam might have accomplished and how many bridges between communities he would have built. I trust that one day we will understand why he was taken from us so soon. Thank you, Jimmy, for this post. I’ll be at the Library on Tuesday to honor his memory.
Jimmy, thank you for writing this blog; you captured Adam’s essence perfectly. He was loved by many, including myself. That day at advocacy, I specifically went to see him. He was certainly special in so many ways. I miss him.
Jimmy, this brought me to tears. Thank you for taking the time to express his impact on us and frame how we need to respond.
Sandra, Mariana, Bryan…I want to do another Day of Advocacy in his honor at the end of this semester. The “Adam Yahel Diaz Day of Advocacy.” He is the one and only student to ever deliver two Day of Advocacy speeches in the same week. We need to advocate for issues of unity in his honor. I hope you can all join in.
What a great way to honor him.
This would be a wonderful way to honor Adam. He was a man who held strong convictions but was always ready to learn from others. He was a seeker of truth who enjoyed having his opinions challenged. I hope you follow through with an Adam Diaz Day of Advocacy.
Sandra…yes. It is set for Tuesday May 12 at 1pm. I will write a blog announcement as a reminder in the next couple of weeks. Hope you can make it. If you want to speak, register at http://www.campuswithavoice.com.
Thank you, Jimmy, for your wonderful thoughts. Some people touch us in ways that will never be forgotten and Adam was one of those people. His positive vibe and genuineness always impressed me. While our memories of him will help sustain us, his untimely passing reminds us to live each day to the fullest and to honor our individual values and beliefs.
Jimmy, I never did take one of your classes but I wish I did! Thank you for putting into words what I couldn’t…what Adam meant to us and to Crafton. He was one of the few that strengthened my faith, because it shone so brightly in him.
Hello from Florida, I was a friend of Adam’s through Instagram. On Friday a conversation I had with him months ago came to mind. I thought about it but payed no mind and went about my day. Then Sunday he came to my mind again and I thought well let me go see what his latest post may be. I only saw the one that he had done before he headed out on his trip. So I was gonna leave a message and before I did, I read everyone else’s post on his last pic. I was shocked to find out he passed away during his trip. I just couldn’t believe it. I began to search google for information and found only one article that confirmed the accident. And then tonight I found you article. Thank you so much for putting this out there. He has been on my mind nonstop, though I did not know him in person, he still had a profound impact on me. I was impressed by his tenacity and resolve to excel at all that he applied himself too. He was very inspirational and encouraging me to go back to school. He told me he would check back with me to see if I had in the summer. And though we discussed religion and faith and may not have agreed on certain things when it came to Adonai, it was wonderful to see him searching for truth to the deepest levels. He shared his background with me and I shared mine. It was wonderful to relate to him. He shared with me about his Father’s Messianic Faith to which I deeply related too. My heart is deeply sadden to hear of his passing. I don’t have away to reach out to his Father, Mother, and Sister but I am praying for them. I know it was Adonai that lead me to check his last post, so that I might know he has passed on. Thank you again for your article and if you could please let me know if there is a gofundme for his funeral I would be happy to offer what I can.
Thank you for this contribution to his legacy. I just found this online: http://www.gofundme.com/rmwwpg
Thank you Tammy for reaching out and sharing. How refreshing to know he made an impression on others as he did us from all over. I am a better person for knowing him.
Thank you for responding so quickly.
I knew Adam, I knew him well. He was my friend. This post is amazing. He would have been so proud of himself. What I admired most about him is that he never pretended to be someone he wasn’t. He was fully aware of his flaws and strengths and took pride in both. Crafton will not be the same and many peoples lives won’t be the same either. Like you said, death is something that can never be explained in a situation like this. It is amazing that one person can make an impact on so many peoples lives on such a high level. He was an amazing person and will really be missed! Great post as always!
Thanks Carleen. Perhaps you can make the remembrance for him today at CHC at 1:00pm. It would be great to see you as we all share our stories.
Jimmy, beautiful and thoughtful.
I have never been the same since Adam’s gone. On the same day with his memorial, I received another news that a 20-year-old fellow of mine committed suicide. I just realize how much I need to reach out to people like the way Adam did. It’s like an awakening lesson that costs so much of a price. I don’t know if it was God’s act of punishment or bless. For one, He took the people that we love away; another, because of that, we’ve learned such a priceless lesson. Would I wish that it had never happened? Probably not because, sadly, we usually don’t realize how important someone is until he/she is gone. Adam’s gone, but his impact is ever-lasting. Now, as time can’t be repeated, we have to choose to continue Adam’s passion and the care he spreads to people. I believe Adam is still spreading that love to us, and through each of us to another.
Live the last day of your life. Live it cheerfully, lovingly, and never holding back.
Hello Belle….I think it has been a very rough week for many of us. Thank you for your positive and encouraging words as all of us attempt to move forward.
For those who want to go to Adam’s funeral, it is today (Friday, 4-17) at Saint Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside. There is a mass at 9 a.m., funeral service at 11 and burial at noon and a reception to follow at the church. There was no campus-wide email, so want to let everyone who was touched by Adam’s life to know. As Professor Acquistapace said at Adam’s memorial on campus, “RIP … rejoicing in paradise.”
So sad to lose such a special person. Nice tribute Jimmy.
We remembered Adam at last night’s Student Recognition Dinner. He was the recipient of the award for excellence in the History Department. It was announced he had been accepted into Berkeley. He had expressed to me this was his top choice for university. It is so difficult to understand why a person with such talent, potential and warm heart would die so young. But Adam knows. All of his questions have answers now.