Nicolás Antonio Ramírez Castro was born on Labor Day, on September 3, 2001. Nico arrived at 10:24 a.m. at Whittier Presbyterian Hospital in California. Nico was eager to grow up. He took his first steps when he was 11 months. Nico smiled as he extended his little arms and slowly let go to show that he could walk on his own. It was a beautiful moment but also the first time we realized how much Nico loved making people feel happy, proud and special.
Nico was happiest on a green soccer field. He began playing when he was just three years old; and while we saw that he had innate talent and skill, we were surprised by his level of discipline. Nico loved going to practice, carefully listening to his coaches and applying the knowledge. His natural velocity, technique and accuracy enabled him to continually pan his surroundings looking to score a goal or prevent the other team from scoring.
When he wasn’t playing with his team, Nico was either kicking the ball at home or watching a soccer match. He learned about players from all over the world and was intrigued by the process of becoming a professional. Nico was determined to someday turn pro himself, playing first in the United States and later in Brazil for the Brazilian National team.
Nico thought about his future all the time and had very big dreams. He planned to attend Harvard, play professional soccer and own a candy store when his playing days were through. And yet he always lived in the moment. He was always present. He was the family comedian and loved to laugh and make people laugh and he was very good at it.
Throughout his schooling he worked hard and maintained straight A’s, knowing that to get into Harvard, he had to be the best. Nico received numerous high achiever awards from Washington and Northwood Elementary School and completed the 5th grade with all A’s despite persistent physical challenges. His determination and perseverance were recognized at his 5th grade graduation with the “Spirit of Northwood” award.
Nico was a confident, funny and talented boy, and was popular and well-liked. Nico cared deeply about his school friends, teachers, neighbors, soccer teammates; and coaches, and in the last year or so his circle grew to include an amazing team of doctors, nurses and medical staff at University Hospital, Christus Children’s Hospital, and the Texas Children’s Hospital. Nico even used his time in Houston to become a fan of the Houston Dynamo soccer team!
Although he was but 11 years old when he left us, Nico lived a full life, rich with varied experiences. He enjoyed travelling, visiting Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Qatar and South Africa. The trip to South Africa for the World Cup was one of his most memorable and he talked about it frequently.
He loved music and his taste included a wide variety of genres and artists---The Beatles, Snoop Dogg, Joaquin Sabina, Bob Marley, Queen, Julieta Venegas, Eminem, Tom Petty, Bruno Mars, Juanes, Guns N’ Roses, Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre., The Moldy Peaches, Lil’ Wayne, War, 2Pac, Johnny Cash, The Kinks, Randy Newman, White Stripes, Green Day, The Doors, Black Eyed Peas, Foster the People, and many more.
Watching movies was another favorite; he especially liked Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, and Toy Story. During his treatment, Nico spent a lot of time watching reruns of TV shows, including Friends, Sponge Bob and George Lopez, and new episodes of the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live.
When Nicolás was diagnosed with a rare type of liver cancer on July 9th 2011, we were told that his life would be very short. His doctors felt he had only a few months to live, but our gracious God knew better and gave us more time with him. Though we enjoyed those 16 months, Nicolás was in a lot of physical pain and his body was slowly transformed by the disease. But his mind, his spirit and who he was never changed. One of his best-loved songs, Across the Universe by The Beatles, says:
Sounds of laughter, shades of life
Are ringing through my opened ears
Inciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love, which
Shines around me like a million suns,
It calls me on and on across the universe.
The phrase “Nothing’s gonna change my world” is repeated throughout the song and for Nico, no matter what limitations were placed on him physically, his perspective, his compassion for others, his love of family and friends, his passion for soccer and music, his smile, his spirit and his soul never changed. He confronted every adversity with courage and to the last, cared more for us than himself.
As he prepared to depart this world, surrounded by hi family, he peacefully whispered his last words to us, “Today is the day. Today, I have to say goodbye. But, please don’t worry.”