Memorial website in the memory of your loved one
His legacy
Tell a story about John  
John always loved a good story and he always loved to tell stories about his friends and his life. He wanted us all to remember him by these stories and he would have wanted us to share them with others. So speak freely, and share with us all.  He will look down on us all and be thankful, for this is how he would have wanted it "to go down".

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Grain of Sand by DeJon  
Music was always a very important part of Matt's life. He played keyboard "by ear" at 4 years old, and guitar in his teens but putting poetry and lyrics to the beat was his love.  He left us hours of recordings, notebooks of lyrics, so many songs.  One of the many favorites is one that he sang with Denise, where he actually sang melody - a little twist from his regular hip-hop style. He was at his best when he was performing. He took the mike at clubs in Orlando, Atlanta, and Chattanooga, before moving to Sunrise where he kept up the tradition. He was especially proud of Grain of Sand, which he recorded as "DeJon" and is included in the CD titled Cultural Starvation, Round 1. Grain of Sand was also included in a later CD "Feel Fantabulous". To read one of the rave reviews, including mention of DeJon, go to:
"It's the Wheel Thing"  
Matt started skateboarding, well I'm not sure which year. It seems like he was born with a board. When he was competing, he routinely placed 1st or 2nd in any category he entered. He even placed 2nd in a national competition in  Chattanooga in October 2000, called the Best of the East. He was well known at Badlands Skate Park in Altamonte Springs - the Badlands logo was a reverse negative screen print of Matt in the air!  In Feb, 1997, Matt was featured in an article in the Orlando Sentinel. It was the first time that the Sentinel included skateboarding in the Sports Section!   A preview of the article can be seen at the address below - if it's too long to click, then just copy & paste into your browser.
Amber's Memoir - Third Sundown - John's Ceremony  

Third Sundown

            Have you ever wondered the significance of a sundown?  Have you ever seen a sundown and wondered anything more than the time of day?  Have you noticed the beauty of it, or actually stopped to watch the sun descend?  Have you seen the colors of the sky and wondered what was going on below them?  Sundowns for my family will never be the same.

            It was the third day.  The third sundown was soon to arrive and the timing had to be perfect.  John had died three days before, on October 26, 2004.  His death was a tragedy that will not soon be forgotten.  For most of my life, he was my youngest and only brother.  He was 23 years old.  His mind was the torture he could not escape.  He taught us that you can only save someone from themselves, if, and for as long as they wish to be saved. 

            Death was a normal part of John’s life.  His first suicide attempt was when he was five.  For our family, it was never a matter of “if”, it was a matter of “when”.  He was a talented artist, good enough to be recorded and published, yet every one of his songs mentions suicide.  His first published song included the lyrics “suicidal dreams like windstreams, penetrate your soul like holes through old sneakers.”

John was part Portuguese and part Cherokee Indian.  He was always proud of both of his bloodlines.  John had always expressed his wish to be buried in the Cherokee way, and though we could not save him in this life, we did our best to fulfill his wishes in the afterlife.  During times of the deepest loss, the closest family clings tightly to themselves so that together they may be strong enough to do what must be done.  That was our responsibility.  It is our way. We had to honor him, honor his wishes and see him on his journey from this world to the next in the ways of old.  It was only with the strength of three that we could light the way for him. We had three days to prepare for the ceremony.  Days become short when you know you only have three.

            It was the third day.  The house smelled of honey baked ham, a co-worker had brought over for the family.  The day was too bright, a glare on the edge of everything that made the world seem surreal.  My mother was heartbroken, but determined.  All of us were in the frame of mind that today was the third day.  There is no putting off these next moments.  The third sundown only came once and to miss it would be another tragedy we wouldn’t have been able to live with.  My sister, Tevas, and I went through all of John’s hats to find enough hair for his ceremony.  He wore his hair almost shaved, so it was difficult to gather the hair with no brush from which to gather.  We meticulously went through every hat and bandana and gathered as much as we could.  It would have to be enough.  We probably had as much dog hair as hair from John but that was okay too, his dog would be with him in the afterlife. 

            The coffee table in the living room would be the stage for this ceremony.  It was wooden and square and large enough for the four of us to sit around it.  Who knew his favorite leather jacket would be the hide on which this ceremony would be performed.  Though the ritual calls for deerskin, the jacket he prized seemed more fitting to John, and so we used it as a cloth to cover the table. On the end of the table was John’s ashes in an urn of ceramic covered in leather.  Tevas and I had adorned the urn in wolf feathers and beads the day before.  Beside it was the leather medicine bag I had sewn for John into the wee hours of that same night.  In the center of this cloth was a hand crafted clay bowl, kilned in an open fire, adorned with Native design. As in the days of old this would be the vessel to hold the ingredients we had gathered.  The ingredients were in small piles surrounding the bowl, while the four of us surrounded the piles.  Three rings, on the third sundown.

Mom was the only one of us who knew the ceremony by heart so we all looked to her for guidance, for her to take the lead.  She put some music on, “as the eagle flies away”, I remember it saying.  She lit a wolf candle.  John’s spirit creature was the Wolf, a loyal and powerful creature so often misunderstood.  As the scent of the candle, a hint of vanilla filled the air, the light in the room began to change, the third sundown had begun.

Mom sat in the center, with me to her right. To her left were Tevas and her husband Mark.  Following her lead, we each took a piece of the ingredients one by one and placed them in the bowl in the center.  In unison we said the following: “Sage, for spiritual cleansing.  Cedar, for physical protection.  Sweetgrass, for blessing.  Rose Petals for the heart and for love.  Lavendar, for relaxation.  Tobacco, to offer to the grandfathers.  Peppermint, for a safe journey.  May your journey be safe John.”

 To the bowl we also added stones that we had chosen for John alone.  Each had a meaning that would help him be calm in spirit when that same calm had eluded him in life.  Pink calcite for comfort in loneliness.  Red Adventurine for the healing light of the heart.  Angelite dispels anger and aids with spiritual journeys and astral travel.  Ametrine dispels negativity from the aura and fills the void with energizing and stabilizing light energy, releases tension.  Indian Bloodstone gives courage to cool anger.  And Aquamarine, the stone of courage, shields the aura and allows for spiritual awareness.  To the stones we each add a lock of hair, taken from behind our left ears, so that John will have a living piece of us with him always. 

When the bowl is filled, Mom takes the bowl and mixes the ingredients together.  The smells of lavender and rose petals fill the air.  As the contents of the bowl are poured into the medicine bag, she says, “Rest well my son.”  The sun continues to go down, on this third day.

I placed the medicine bag in his urn as is the proper way.  We added dried fruits and nuts to the urn so that he could eat on his journey.  Dried pineapple, cranberries, cashews, apples, bananas and more were placed in the urn.

We believe that the journey to the grandfathers is a long one, which requires sustenance and love from family to let the spirit reach its destination.  The spirit took three days to prepare itself for its journey and on the third sundown would begin the journey to the place of the grandfathers, a heaven as many believe.  Honoring the traditions of our ancestors, we packed his medicine bag with love and strength and courage and foods for the journey as the candle of the wolf burned and the sun set nearby.  If the spirit should not have the items needed for the journey, the spirit would be trapped here on earth and never be at rest.  For John, his need for rest was so great he took his own life.  In the three days that followed, our family made sure the rest he sought would be granted.  For on that third sundown, we gave him everything he would need for his journey.  On that third sundown, he began his time of peace. 

I covered the urn, as Mom blew out the candle.  In a puff of smoke, the sun sank below the horizon.  John’s final journey had begun. “May the grandfathers watch over you and be at peace, my son.” As Mom took the urn to its pedestal, the third sundown ended. 

As every journey ends, a new journey begins.  I know John’s journey began as the sun dropped below the horizon that day, and with that sundown, so began the journey of my family’s life without him.  With each sunrise, that journey becomes a little bit easier.  I read a poem called Life’s Journey (anonymous) that says in the simplest terms:

Do not take for granted the things closest to your heart.
Cling to them as you would your life; for without them, life is meaningless.
Do not let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past nor for the future.
By living your life one day at a time, you live all of the days of your life.
Do not give up when you still have something to give.
Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.
It is a fragile thread that binds us to each other.
Do not be afraid to encounter risks.
It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.
Do not shut love out of your life by saying it is impossible to find.
The quickest way to receive love is to give love.
The fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly.
In addition, the best way to keep love is to give it wings.
Do not dismiss your dreams. To be without dreams is to be without hope.
To be without hope is to be without purpose.
Do not run through life so fast that you forget not only where you have been,

but also where you are going.
Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

Some say that life is a test, a test of strength, and heart.  These last months have tested my heart and my strength.  With each sunrise, the test seems a little bit easier.  Each day I awaken with a few more answers.  I have learned to savor each step of this journey I call life.  I have learned to not let my loved ones wonder if my love for them is there, even if that means giving it wings.  I have learned that no matter how far away you take a bird, it can still find its way home, given the chance to fly. 

  As I travel the roads, and climb the mountains on my journey; the sunsets and sunrises have new meaning.  As I watch the sunset today, I wonder how many journeys are beginning tonight, and how many have ended.  I hope that those on tough roads find shelters in their storms.  For tomorrow is a new day, and the third sundown will begin again. 

- Amber

Hope In Diversity  
Hope In Diversity... so much said in so few words. Lee and Dan manage this organization. They also helped to arrange and participated in one of the memorials for Matt. This one began at Ft. Lauderdale Beach and continued into the night. A link to this memorial is included in their site, in remembrance of Matt. I remember them sitting in the living room with us on the morning that they were leaving, all of us trying to fill the silence but still so raw that we struggled with the words. If you have a moment to visit them, they are doing great work to help others and one of their focuses is suicide prevention.  Thank you.


Tonight, I was looking at the latest pictures Amber posted. One of them is a sign "NO BICYLES, SKATES OR SKATEBOARDS ON SIDEWALK".  I had to laugh. That had to be Matt's favorite sign.  It was like an invitation for him to bring out the board.

When we lived in Altamonte Springs, all of the shopping centers and even churches had these signs. If you were caught skateboarding there, you got a "trespass". But it took 10 trespasses at the same place to get a real ticket with a fine. It didn't take long for Matt to develop a system....

He was in Junior High. When the police gave you a trespass, they checked your student ID.  Matt got 9 trespasses on his ID at every single shopping center, strip mall, church and even Toys R Us.  But he wasn't worried. He was a skateboarder.  He believed that not allowing skateboards was the next thing to a violation the 1st Ammendment and staged his own civil protest. 

Matt borrowed IDs from friends who wore similar haircuts or had similar looks. He got 9 tresspasses on each of their IDs for every sign he knew of. It was a mission.  He gathered an impressive pile of trespasses - I would bet that Matt still holds the record for the most skateboarding trespasses in Altamonte Springs without a ticket!  He so loved doing the "Indy Grab". 
John Brooks or Garth Fernandes? ...... by Jamie  
John and I were friends for about a year before he started working with me at Porter's Place. During that time, I got to know about his love for and talent in music. I had listened to his music and he occassionally freestyled with friends. It was all hip-hop and it was good.
I had been singing karaoke for a while at Porter's and I always begged John to but he always said, "Next week." Finally one week I asked him what he was thinking about singing and when he replied, "The River by Garth Brooks," I honestly laughed.
I secretly entered him in the line up. When it was his turn I waited anxiously for his song to begin. There he was bandana, hat backwards, and baggy jeans about to sing a country classic.
I looked at Daryl and said, "Let's pray he doesn't scare off the customers with this one!" But when John started singing, I was amazed. When he sang that song he owned it, and I have to admit I was jealous that he was better than me. "The River" became John's standard song for every week, mixing in other songs here and there, but like I said, when he sang that song it truly was his. If you know the song you know it fits. I wish everyone could have heard him sing karaoke. It was great.
Fashion Sense...... by Denise  
Everyone who knew John knew how much he loved his clothes. His shoes always matched his shirt which matched his hat and each hat had a corresponding necklace that went with a watch...but hey, he always looked good. I always thought he had a great fashion sense, but I never knew how hard he worked for it! I remember going to the mall with him for the first time. First we went to the shoe store. He tried on quite a few pairs before he found one that he liked. While walking to another store to find pants he kept looking at the shoes telling me how nice they were and how much he liked them. While trying on pants, he walked from mirror to mirror in his socks making sure they fit right. Then he put on the shoes to make sure they complimented eachother. Perfect! Then we went on to find a shirt. The shoes and pants went really well, but every shirt he tried on wasn't really what he was looking for. Then he finally found a shirt he liked but he didn't think the color of the shirt went well with the shoes. He bought the shirt so we had to go back and return the shoes. After a few more stores, John found a pair of shoes that matched the shirt and the pants. And sure enough, when we got back to his house he showed me the watch and hat he had that matched. The perfect outfit! Going to the mall with John was always fun, even though it was an all day event!!
Thanks with all our hearts to Karen & Rick Cruz for a gift sent from Heaven 11/16/04  

Merry Christmas From Heaven

I still hear the songs
I still see the lights
I still feel the love
on cold wintery nights

I still share your hopes
and all your cares
I'll even remind you
to please say your prayers

I just want to tell you
you still make me proud
You stand head and shoulders
above the crowd

Keep trying each moment
to stay in His Grace
I came here before you
to help set your place

You don't have to be
perfect all of the time
He forgives you the slip
If you continue to climb

To my family and friends
please be thankful today
I'm still close beside you
In a new special way

I love you all dearly
now don't shed a tear
Cause I'm spending my
Christmas with Jesus this year

Copyright 1990, John Win Mooney Jr.
All Rights Reserved

The Cruz family also gave John the gift of eternal enrollment in the S.M.A. Fathers Perpetual Mass Association granting many Spiritual Privileges including daily prayers and many special masses held throughout the year. 
Thank you, Karen and Rick, for this very special gift,
The Family of John Fernandes

John and Todd.. the beginning (by Todd)  
 I remember a time, when john...De'Jon... first moved to spring oaks...he moved 2 houses down from my friend norman and his sisters simone and autum, and next door to that was marissa and laura, normans sisters friends, and quickly john and the rest (i included) we became friends, we continued and hung out, got down, did juvenile things becasue we were all between 9 and 13, and we played manhunt spanning the three houses (Norman and Simon and Autum, the next house was Marissa and Laura, and the final house was John's) all of us got together and played manhunt every weekend and also traveled to other spots and through this time john and i established a friendship based on many, skateboards (and his hate for bladers....ha ha ha) guitars, and alot of other things...., but through this time we bacame close and one day we were skating in his garage, and we had an argument about some immature prepubescent bulls**t and we got into a fight, well at the time i was wearing braces and he got a good shot on my mouth and i was smiling and he split my lip open like a fish on a samurai on an opponet, and from there things escalated, and things were said and things were done, but the funny thing is, 2 weeks later after both our parents forbade us to hang out, we were caught chillin playin video games by nina, and she commeced to be a mother like she does best and try to instill upon us the error in our ways but we refused to hear her thoughts out of immaturity and ignorance only to lead to one of the best friendships that no one would ever imagine, after that we became close and this story will continue on.......keep in touch and u will find out more....bwa ha ha ;-)

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