This is a little unusual for this column but something worth sharing. Last week, I attended a “Celebration of Life” for Daniel Espejel a young man who left us much too early. I was honored to know him and his husband Tony Purcell. They had been together for 16 years. Daniel was a brilliantly creative young man with a smile that never stopped. But as I sat at the celebration what moved me and brought most of us to tears was the eulogy written and delivered by Tony’s dad. I thought of Pride and of Stonewall and of how wonderful it would be if every gay boy had a family like Tony’s. If every member of the LGBTQ community could be embraced by family like Daniel was. I share this eulogy from Daniel’s father-in-law and hope you will also be moved by it.
Eulogy by Anthony J. Purcell, Sr.
We come together this evening to celebrate the life of Daniel Espejel. He would have approved of us holding this celebration in this very appropriate venue, the Women’s National Democratic Club because Daniel’s clientele were mostly women. Everything he did in his flower and cosmetic businesses involved creating beauty and delighting his clientele with his artistic works.
It is said that, “Anyone can put paint on a canvas, but only a true master can bring the painting to life.” Daniel was a true master; he expressed himself using various mediums but was renowned for his floral arrangements. When Daniel entered a building, his beautiful smile and joyous disposition brought energy, love, and life to everyone. His generosity to all was never ending. He was a perfect ambassador for the community to have front and center to soften the hearts and minds of those conservatives who stereotype the community for their beliefs and actions, instead of who they are individually.
Daniel’s business adventure had him hobnobbing with the rich and famous and his resume reads like a “Who’s Who.” His floral arrangements sat at the tables of two Popes, presidents, vice presidents, ambassadors, royalty, heads of state, and many of the society women of Washington, D.C. He touched them all and because of it, they loved him.
Daniel lived the American Dream. He came to the United States at the age of 18 at attend American University. He left behind his parents and 3 siblings in Mexico to achieve his dream and start a new life. A life he would never have an opportunity to have had he stayed in Mexico. All families in America have immigration as their roots because the only real Americans are the American Indians, therefore; we were proud to have Daniel become part of our family. Daniel was able to have an exceptional life in America because of his hard work ethic. He built a successful flower business and he continued to branch out into other business interests.
When we would go out to eat at a restaurant as a family, you could count on Daniel always want to sample some of your meal and to his credit, he would always offer you some of what he had ordered. He loved trying different dishes and cuisines. He leaves me with the daunting task of decorating our two Christmas trees later this year. This was always his job at Thanksgiving and I am already hearing in my head “That is not the way Daniel did it!”… “Thanks a lot, Mister!” Daniel always thought of my wife and I as his American parents and he would come to me for fatherly advice on numerous issues. My wife always benefitted from Daniel’s expertise in fashion and fads. He spoiled her and buttered her up in ways which I could never match.
The music artist Sting, sang, “When you love somebody, when you love somebody, set them free, free set them free. Free, free, set them free.” We all loved Daniel and that is what we had to do. It is normal for the children to bury their parents, not the parents to be burying their son. We all wanted Daniel to stay with us on Earth, but we took the advice of the medical staff and “Set him free.”
There is no book to reference as a father when you do not have answers that are needed for your son, when he comes to you and asks, “Why?” All you can do is provide comfort, love, and support. Tell him the answers he seeks are not found here at this time and may never be found until the next journey on the road of life. Live one day at a time, then two, then a week, and then a month. Tomorrow will be that one month.
Finally, we want to thank everyone for joining us in celebrating Daniel’s Life this evening. I leave you with thought, maybe, just maybe, Daniel’s clientele has now risen to the very top. He now arranges flowers for God’s table.