Helvio “Al” Silveira
I went to the funeral service of a classmate today. Even though we are in our 40s, that is and always will be how I think about him, as a classmate, because that is the main circle that I traveled in with him. We each have many circles of friends; they are not separate circles apart from each other, but instead are like the ripples in a pond beginning with a small circle in the center, a larger circle surrounding that first circle, an even larger circle surrounding that second circle, with an unending amount of ever widening circles spreading outward continuing on into infinity. And each of our own circles connect with everyone we know.
Our feelings about the death of someone we know can vary greatly depending on our perspective, onwhich circle we shared with that person. We all know what it’s like to hear about the passing of celebrity that we never knew personally, that we may have enjoyed on television for most of our childhood. We may think, “What a shame,” and spend a little while enjoying fond memories that they were part of. We may feel that we’ve lost a part of our childhood, yet accepting the fact that life goes on is still fairly easy on that level. Of course, that person would have been a part of one of the very outer-lying circles around us. It is easier to accept and deal with.
When it happens in one of the circles closer to home, our perspective and emotions change, getting more intense the closer we get to the center. With Helvio, we were not in each other’s innermost circles; but our circles were close enough that they connected through the circles of some of our own closer friends. We shared some of the same people in our innermost circles. It is in this that I am reminded of the phrase “six degrees of separation.” When I think about that, I realize it is not degrees of separation but degrees of connection. We are connected through the shared experiences of many years ago, and now by the special people that we shared. While we may have lost touch since high school, we have been still close enough through our connections to “touch” each other – maybe not in the direct sense, but in that ripple effect that every person’s life has on everybody else around them, and further. The butterfly effect, where even the smallest event or action can have a large effect in other places. We learned about that on a small scale in the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Like his parents to him, Helvio passes on himself to his children, and they are taking him and his spirit further, affecting every person they come into contact with. Al was a police officer. Like all police officers, he shares a connection directly with every member of the community he serves in, whether they are aware of it or not. Think about that on the small scale, when he was on traffic duty and stopped someone for speeding. That may not seem like much, and to some it may seem like an aggravation. However, think about the possibilities if that person had not been stopped and had continued on and hurt or killed another person. That person, as well as all of their circles would have been directly affected by that. Everyone who serves the public in any way directly impacts all of the lives around them. We are all connected, whether we see the ties or not.
I am sad about Helvio’s passing; he was a good man. But I know so many others who are and will be feeling his absence in a much greater way. I saw my friend, Richie (who overlaps in a few circles of mine, going back to when we were 13), who is one of Helvio’s “Brothers in Blue” (another circle-bond) this morning at the funeral service. He was in full uniform and one of the pallbearers. I don’t even know if he saw me or knows I was there. But I saw him. And I saw his face. He was looking directly ahead at all times, going through the ceremonial traditions. And I saw his pain. And my heart wept with him.
As an aside, regarding the ceremonious traditions certain groups have when a member passes–whether it be policemen, firemen, military, religious groups, or any other kinds of group– they are important because they highlight the bond of the circle—the unbroken, continuous circle around that person. If a funeral procession interferes with your commute, or blocks a road or roads in your path, remember that whether or not you see it you have a connection with that person in some way, and in that moment you are touching each other. Take a moment to be aware of that.
During the mass I saw many familiar faces, people in different circles of mine and Helvio’s. Separate circles yet connecting. I saw his love, Lisa, who I don’t know, and I can only imagine the grief she must be feeling, and I feel so very deeply for her. I listened to his son talk about him, his love for his father was so very evident, and it was obvious that Helvio will still be around for a long time. Another one of his ‘brothers’ shared some wonderful little details with all of us, giving us a small look inside the circle he shared with his fellow police officers. I listened to the stories the priest shared about his conversations with Helvio. And then I realized that I felt very fortunate to be let in on parts of his life that I didn’t know, and to have been at least a part of one circle of this man who was loved by so many.
I myself have not said much, or posted on Facebook, too much about Helvio. I do not want people saying to me that they are sorry for my loss, when there are so many others who have lost so much more. Besides, it is not just one person’s loss – it is ourloss. Beginning with his family, moving outward into his close band of brothers and friends, his community, and moving further outward.
To be able to see the invisible connections between all of us, is to be able to see how we impact the lives of others. In some cases, like in Helvio’s case, the impact is obvious. I grieve alongside of his family and loved ones, with and for them. And I am proud to say that I knew him, however distant my circle was.
I have to add this: I am a firm believer in signs. Before I went to the funeral service I had posted on Facebook a complaint about the hair from my cats being all over my clothing. My close friends are very aware that the majority of time I leave the house without any concern for my appearance, only making sure that I am is covered as I have to be. Yet the cat hair on my pants bothered me enough for me to say something publicly about. I found my daughter’s lint roller – I don’t own one myself – and made the effort to remove the cat hair. I went even further to take the lint roller with me, and before I got into my car made a careful effort to remove the hair from my pants. I never do that; if—and I mean if—I even bother with a lint roller, it is only once before I leave the house. I don’t even consider taking it with me, yet I did today. And then during the mass I heard a story about Helvio’s obsession with keeping his uniform pristine and his many lint rollers. I firmly believe that I was given a nudge this morning to make sure that I did not go to the church with cat hair all over me. Helvio—Al—may be gone from us in the way that we are used to, but he is still here.