It came in the form of a simple text message from Fernando on October 13th, 2015. I had been prepared well in advance that it could be any day, any hour, any moment. But no matter how prepared you think you are… you are just never fully prepared for when it hits. The text simply said, “It happened.” And I knew immediately. Marco Lira had graduated to the Great Forever, to life in eternity, to take his spot alongside the saints and angels in the presence of Divine Mercy.
Marco’s journey to this point was not overnight. For 39 months, he had remained silent in the hospital. In those early months, I was visiting him weekly, sometimes two or three times within one week. After the first year, I was going once a month to see him. By the third year, I was getting out to visit him roughly once every two or three months. Sometimes, I would go alone. Other times, I would go with friends who missed him and wanted to spend their own time with him. My visits were nothing extraordinary; sometimes, I’d simply let him know I was there near him, and then I’d sit and read a book. I might play him some music, and on other occasions I’d give him full updates on how life was going at the time. I’d always let him know that various friends were sending their love.
When the family asked me if I would give the eulogy, I felt humbled but also inadequate for such a task. I will be completely honest here. I did not know Marco since he was a kid like others had. He and I did not hang out on a daily basis like others did with him. True, I had engaged in several deep conversations with him over the years regarding a number of topics and issues (some personal, some spiritual, some utterly nonsensical), but I knew many others had engaged him in similar conversations as well. I was far from the only one. It helped me tremendously when someone (who will remain anonymous) privately messaged me and said, “You were always such a positive and spiritual influence on Marco. He’d be honored to know you were speaking for him.” That message gave me the confidence I needed.
It is near to impossible to confine to words, whether written or oral, just exactly who Marco Lira is. Anyone who knew him on a personal level can testify to this. To truly know Marco Lira was to know him in person. I remember entering into Cedar Sinai hospital to visit him and a security officer told me, “Whoever this guy is, he must be really special. People are pouring in by the dozens every hour to see him.” I said, “If you knew Marco, you’d understand why.”
When I was asked to give the eulogy for Marco Lira, I realized that the task for me was to capture who Marco is to all of us who were privileged to know him, in one capacity or another. For years, I talked about two different Marcos. The one who would command audiences with his confidence, passion, and energy; and then the one who commanded hearts with his sweetness, generosity, and vulnerability. But I’ve come to realize these aren’t two different people, it’s still the one and same Marco Lira. He encompassed and reflected all these traits in various shades and at varying degrees of intensity at all times, simultaneously. If that last sentence did not make sense, all I can say is anyone who knew Marco could testify to its accuracy.
I loved getting to know the Marco Lira who commanded audiences and owned the stage. He was a dynamic personality, with a certain attitude that convinced you he was well on his way to taking over the world. He certainly had a larger-than-life personality, and he seemed unbreakable and, as he sang, permanent. This was the Marco I knew from a distance. For a good couple years at least, the most Marco was to me was the lead singer in my brother’s band, a stellar frontman who put maximum energy into his performances. He would not tolerate seeing you merely standing near a stage nodding your head with your arms crossed. He made sure you were front and center, singing out loud, and moving to the music.
I was drawn to this dynamic persona. Marco certainly had an aura about him. It was his confidence which was compelling. A confidence matched with a radiant and magnetic positivity. It was very infectious, to say the least. You left with this sense of just loving life and wanting to live it, and conquer it, to the absolute fullest.
Even more, I loved getting to know Marco offstage. And this was a gradual process. Marco and I were not best friends. Again, he was simply simply the lead singer in my brother’s band, to me. And to him, I was Jon’s big brother. He was always polite and cordial and excited to see me and Carolanne at his shows to support them. But our relationship was essentially nothing more than hellos and goodbyes. It really was not until we asked Marco to sing at our wedding that he and I began having heart-to-heart conversations. I never fully realized just how much it meant to him to be asked to sing our wedding song, especially considering it was an original song he had written.
That night he joked that he could not afford a wedding gift but that he had a gift for me nonetheless. “You’re being upgraded, kid. You’re no longer just Kid, you’re my big brother.” I accepted this gift very warmly. Marco had long been a unique personality to me, and I always loved getting to know unique personalities. Marco was drawn to my knowledge of the Bible, and told me had come from a faith upbringing and wanted to reconnect. Marco had faith in God, but I told him it was even more important to know that God had faith in Marco. I remember Marco went ecstatic over this thought.
Our late night phone calls began shortly after this. Brief, but always powerful. They were simply Marco asking me to pray for him, and asking for a reminder that God loved him. Within a year, I began leading the youth ministry at my local parish church. Marco and I would meet up on occasion, for ice cream or coffee. We would talk about general things with life and music. I remember feeling privileged I was getting to know him on a personal level, mainly because he was such an overall kind and compassionate person who was eager to tap into God’s purpose for his life. Marco had once said he felt privileged to know me and Carolanne because he admired our love for each other and our faith in God. I began seeing glimmers of Marco’s vulnerability during this period, and I grew in my love for him. On stage, or at a party, he was untouchable and unbreakable and center-of-attention. But over ice cream or coffee, he was very soft spoken, humble and gracious, and displayed small open windows of uncertainty as to the purpose of his life.
I can say that, on a faith foundation, Marco was most drawn to the message that Jesus commanded us to love others as he had loved us. One of his favorite stories was Jesus washing the feet of his disciples the night before he died. I told Marco that the role of foot washer was a very humbling role in Jesus’ day. It was looked down upon, because it was seen as the role of a servant. And het, here we have the King of Kings joyfully choosing to take this role, putting his disciples above him and serving them. Marco was captivated by the God who humbled himself, the God who put the needs of others first, the God who reached out to and lifted the broken. Marco used to joke if I ever opened my own church, he would attend it and lead the music ministry.
Marco and I also loved talking about music, something very passionate to both of us. From The Used to System of a Down to Incubus to Kurupt to Ice Cube to Michael Jackson to Queen to Al Green to Earth Wind & Fire to Santana to the Rolling Stones to John Lennon to Glenn Miller… All I can say is we loved talking about music. These conversations also allowed me a chance to delve into Marco’s mind and heart about his lyrics. I remember an extensive conversation about his thoughts on For Her, Fantastic Day, Characters, What’s A Train, and Clarity. This shall forever remain firmly planted in my heart, because it was an even further insight into his vulnerability, even if we didn’t discuss it explicitly.
A cherished memory of this time was running into Marco at The Wherehouse and a cd had just dropped, a Christmas punk compilation featuring InMemory performing Most Wonderful Time of the Year. His enthusiasm could not be contained. He was ecstatic to see his band on a cd being sold at The Wherehouse, and he let it be known to every person shopping. He must have told at least ten different people to buy his cd because he was singing on it. There was also the time he helped me decorate my wife’s desk late at night for her 21st birthday, and he grabbed a tape recorder and sang Happy Birthday to her, with a note saying “play me” left on top. Another time when we were driving with my brother and he was freestyling nonstop for several minutes about every single thing he was seeing around him.
My brother’s wedding proved to be a turning point for our friendship, because that was the first time Marco and I had a serious talk about a whole host of issues and insecurities he wrestled with. This was the first time he didn’t just give me a glimmer of his vulnerability, but a wide open door. It was odd to me that Marco was worried I would see him differently after this, but if anything, my heart just continued to grow. I loved getting to know Marco in this capacity, because his vulnerability was beautiful to me. It showed me he was just like me, and just like anyone else. All of us have a need and longing for deep unfailing love, acceptance, and purpose. This was the first time I told Marco that his heart would draw multitudes together. Not his music, not his charismatic outward personality, but simply his heart. I also reaffirmed to Marco that love, acceptance, and purpose ultimately find their fulfillment in God.
Of course, this conversation was powerful and painful for different reasons. Not only did it reveal a lot about Marco to me, but it also revealed a lot about myself to him. Marco was leaning on me to be his support and his rock, but I myself was just as in need of love, acceptance, and purpose as he was. I told him just having a title of “Youth Minister” didn’t change that, just as his title of “Lead Singer of InMemory” didn’t change it for him.
“Do you love me?,” he asked.
“Does God love me?,” he asked.
Aren’t these the very two questions all of us at some point in some capacity begin to ask? Marco had these same questions. And in asking them and seeking honest and sincere answers, I saw that Marco was not much different from anyone else who seeks and searches. Yes, he was untouchable and utterly unique on stage and at parties and in social settings. But behind closed doors, he sought and searched for love, from others and from God. He sought and searched for acceptance, for purpose. And it was this aspect of Marco that I came to love the most. Of course, Marco knew he was loved, by others and by God. The real challenge for him was being able to accept that he was worthy of this love. And as I told him that night and numerous times after, “Marco, you are worthy to be loved.” I think he knew he was worthy to be loved, but every now and then, which of us doesn’t need this reminder? I know I do, I know others do… and Marco did, too.
Unbreakable, untouchable, permanent… Yes, this was Marco Lira.
Vulnerable, sensitive, fragile… Yes, this too was Marco Lira.
The world is filled with many unique personalities, legends in their time. And then you have individuals who transcend even this, people like Marco Lira, who leave an imprint and an impact on the heart in just a mere moment. The world may have not known Marco Lira, but to anyone who had the privilege of knowing him, they meant the world to him.
There are many words that have been used by many people to attempt to define Marco, both his character and his personality. In so many words, he has been defined with words such as: driven, passion, charismatic, charming, energy, vibrant, exuberant, radiant, positivity, enthusiasm, creative, unique, thoughtful, compassionate, brilliant, artistic, extraordinary, standout, animated, blazing, desire, emotional, inspiration, zealous, brazen, confidence, magnetic, flair, a helpless hopeless romantic, and so on and so on. I think all would agree that three key words would best sum all of this up in regards to who Marco is: heart, soul, and spirit.
Marco had a huge capacity to love and accept other people. It is true to say that he always wanted others to feel welcomed, and to treat them as family. He made it a personal goal to bring smiles to other people, because he placed a huge emphasis on the happiness of others. In a certain sense, Marco loved bragging about his friends and family because he truly desired that they share the spotlight with him. He had no problem telling others in detailed and expressive words and hugs just how much they meant to him.
On the other side of this same coin was a person who was also in constant and tremendous need of love and acceptance as well. Marco did a good job at times of hiding this part of his personality, almost as if putting on a costume. On the stage or among loved ones, it’d be hard to see the brokenness unless you looked very hard and dug deep to extract it out. On rare and selective occasions, Marco would pull back the mask and reveal this about himself. The stage and the spotlight were convenient ways for him to find acceptance, and to feel untouchable. However, in his core, he struggled with believing he was worthy of genuine love himself. He was desperately always in pursuit of being accepted and welcomed by others. I have heard it said that, often, when someone express unending love to someone else and offers them the world, deep inside it is also because they personally need unending love and need to know they are the world to someone else.
With Marco, it is true to say that he believed dogmatically in the philosophy of “give-and-take.” He would demand the absolute best of his own energy and passion and strength to give his all to others who needed him; whether that meant performing with all his soul on a stage, or encouraging a friend to sing (or scream) from their heart, or merely hugging someone tight and whispering to them that they were worthy of love. On the same token, he required, and quite frankly deserved, no less passion and energy from others; whether it was supporting him by seeing him in person on stage or on a late weeknight to the early morning hours, or demanding that he give to the world all that he knew he was capable of with his music and art and love and positivity, or simply hugging him tight and whispering to him (when he needed it) that he was amazing and worthy of great love.
To truly know Marco, you had to know the man himself, to see all these dynamics in play, and to see how they left their imprint and changed the world around you. However, you also had to know two other things: his personal creed, and his greatest love story.
First, his personal creed. Marco firmly believed dogmatically in the lifestyle of loving others with endless compassion, giving your heart and soul and energy to others in need, and making everyone feel welcomed and accepted. It is very well known that Marco would frequently organize events where music and art could benefit others who were suffering. This is perhaps the greatest testimony to someone who had no desire to benefit from his talent directly, but rather sought to utilize his gifts to benefit others. We call this humility, and it is the beautiful path to holiness.
Marco often took joy in taking the spotlight off him and focusing it towards others. He would do this to me often, when he would introduce me to friends as, “This is the guy who taught me Awesome. He’s a great guy to know, he’s the best! You should know him too, kid.” Marco was human, and like any of us, he was prone to all the range of human emotions. But I have heard numerous stories of people who would go years at a time not seeing Marco, only to run into him somewhere and say he acted like a day hadn’t passed, and that he would greet them with his famous epic smile and, in a heartbeat, the past would be forgotten. To Marco, if you were a friend for even a moment, you were automatically family. And he was aware that no family is perfect, but family is still family, and it always comes first.
I will never forget the number of times Marco would come to me for prayer, and for a simple reminder that God loved him. Too many times to count. And yet, he never took this for granted. When he found out I was going through difficult times in my life, a time in which many friends and family had seemingly given up on me, Marco hugged me tight and whispered, “I’m here for you, kid. Always. I love you.” Marco held no criticisms, no judgments, no pointing fingers. He merely offered me his hugs, his listening ears, and his promise to always be there for me. There are moments in life when an acquaintance becomes a friend, and then there are moments when a friend becomes family. Marco used to fondly refer to me as “his big brother.” I can truly say, without hesitation, Marco is my family.
You also need to know his greatest love story. If you want to know Marco, you must listen to his music, and to the music which inspired him. His lyrics conveyed a message, they were an insight into his mind and soul. They were the tangible reflection of his spirit. Marco could have been the next great success story with his music, but he had no desire for any of that. His pleasure came from the mere art of making music and performing it, and for others to be moved by hearing it. He would easily light up any stage or any room with his presence, but it only mattered to him if left its footprint inside your heart and soul. If you want to know Marco, you need to know his greatest love story, the art which captured him. And to do that, you need to listen to the music he made.
I will let Marco say it best himself. Here is a sample of the insights he gave to the world from deep within his spirit; a spirit which ached for genuine, unfailing love, a spirit which breathed color into a world of darkness, and a spirit which demanded we give him no less than the screams emanating deep within our own souls.
“I love my heroes, ’cause they’re not famous. This just might be my last chance to let you know my name, before my chances pass away. So lend me your ears, I’ll sing you passion.”
“I’m not satisfied with being anonymous anymore. I’ll make you scream my name. My friends are family, my family comes first.”
“My music’s precious, and art is a blessing.”
“You don’t know me, I’m permanent, and you don’t know the half.”
“I beg for a purpose. Take my hand, we’ll make it through the satisfaction.”
“I’d like to think that I’m someone who’s wings have grown enough to lift him.”
“As you’re leaving, he is screaming just one question. Will you be there to hear my memories? Never forget, always remember when, though time has passed, we’ve found nothing’s different.”
“I scream in every language, sounds the same. So I’m gonna sing this song in color, just to upgrade. Just to get paid? Kid, that’s so lame.”
“I’m gonna maintain integrity, ’cause my purpose is passion, that’s why you love me. That’s why you loathe me, I’d rather stay lonely, only to one day be one of the greatest. Look at this mess mom, I swear that I made this, I’m no longer nameless.”
“No matter what it takes, I’m gonna pull out the stops, and I’m not gonna break. Under these lights, I’m not gonna break. This is my stage, I’m not gonna break.”
“And I know without you this all would be pointless, I’m sure. Loyalty, you say that you’ll follow, don’t apologize. Splitting ourselves open, it’s all we got, you’re in this for blood. And I’ll tell them who you are, if you decide to hide. They’ll witness me daily as I sometimes run behind you.”
“There’s a connection like the continents in ancient times when dinosaurs ruled the world, and now it’s mine, and now it’s yours.”
“I couldn’t do this alone. There’s a bright light, it shines for you and I. This is the last straw, this is my last chance, we keep coming back, it’s not over.”
“If I go down, we all go down.”
“These crowded rooms could never match your face.”
“Don’t leave home. There’s nothing but starving wolves outside. I beg you to take a step back from the door. It’s killing me, doesn’t it hurt? Tell me baby you waited, you’re loyal, you love me, you’ll never let me go.”
“Infatuated with your fashion, it’s my daily routine. To be outside of your glass display. My love, you’re made for me.”
“You can’t leave, I cannot stay. It’s not safe. And they break the front door down, they find me in tears, you hide behind me. Put me in my new white coat, arms crossed my chest, to restrain my desperate heart from screaming your name.”
“I never said I would, I never said I could, I never wanted to do this alone.”
“When we become the center of attention, they listen.”
“I can’t deal with this pressure, I’m stressed out.”
“Paper planes in the rain, I still feel safe. I’m holding onto you, along with two grenades.”
“You’ve got this whole town loving you. This whole town, believing you, leaving you. They cheer at the sound of the chaos within, I cringe at the site of the monster inside.”
“Count me out, I’m not ready to go. I’m not ready to drown.”
“I’ll set ablaze this town.”
“Beware of breaking my heart.”
“Silly of me to think that I could be loved.”
“You can keep our friends because they’re unbelievable.”
“I’ve been dying just to tell you something. I’ve been waiting for so long. You like to tell me that you’re fine without me, you’ll regret it when I’m gone. I pray to God you cannot breathe, or go a single day without the thought of me.”
“I got everything you want, I got everything that you need. Just ask for anything, that’s just me.”
“When a door closes, a window will open. Taught myself to sing, it’s better like that. But you encouraged me to scream.”
“Community… Identity… Stability… We’ll leave behind the most welcomed silence when we’re gone.”
“This is the way I got it down. It’s my notorious way, I won’t stay down.”
“You’re a brave soul, I wouldn’t let me near myself, I can’t thank you enough.”
“Excuses excuses are better than letting me down.”
“I’m sicker than your average, you don’t know my style. Remember we run this town. Can’t hold me back, can’t hold me down.”
“It’s official, I’m helpless, a hopeless romantic.”
“You illuminate every word you speak, your passion is blinding me.”
“I don’t feel like talking at all. I don’t feel like talking so I guess I’ll sing you this song. I hope you’re listening.”
“This fall belongs to both of us. Let me take you to a place where you can scream out loud, all the words to your favorite songs. ‘Cause that’s the least that I can do for how much you love me. And I hope you’ve had the time of your life. Thank you for the memories.”
“Recall the moments, when I’d make you smile just because, and that’s where I’ll be, with my crooked halo above. I’ll trade you halos, when you deserve a lot more. And sing you blue notes, to remind you of before.”
“This is the way that I write history. This is the way that you’ll remember me.”
I once told Marco that his greatest gift to the world was his heart. He was desperate for affection and the need to belong. Like so many, his greatest fear was loneliness, and being forgotten. At a social event, or up on a stage with a mic in hand, Marco seemed untouchable, as if he owned the world and commanded the hearts of all present. To those who knew him in this capacity, all would agree to the truthfulness of this statement. And yet, off the stage and alone behind closed doors, Marco was a fragile human being, like so many of us. He often told me that without music and without the crowds, he would be a nobody. I told him that he would draw multitudes together, and not just because of his talents and abilities, but primarily because of his heart.
I realized that it was important, if I was going to accurately represent who Marco is, and what his legacy is to this world, then I should turn to the lives he himself impacted. In the past few days, literally hundreds of people have shared who Marco is to them. Here is a very small sample of what people have said.
“Everyone you ever came into contact with, you changed their lives. You made me the person I am today. You taught me strength, confidence, to believe in myself, and to be passionate in everything I do.”
“The world lost a legend. He showed me what love really is. He showed me what family really is, and he never let me back down from music.”
“Marco was an inspiration. He never demanded attention, but became the main focus when he walked in a room. He was genuine, he was a legend.”
“When I think of Marco, I just cant sum him up with one word. He had such charisma, an undeniable passion, something that drew people to him. It was this massive energy for life that he possessed.”
“He was an angel. His senior project was a benefit concert in honor of my son who was diagnosed with leukemia. A complete stranger who hears about our crisis and decided to raise money to help my family”
“An amazing person, a great friend, and the example of how humans should treat other humans. He inspired me, and everyone around him, to be great. A shining light on this dark planet.”
“A brother to me. He knew how to command a crowd and he always put everything he had into his performances. He taught me how to be confident and how to dream beyond the little bubble around me. Without Marco, all this would be pointless.”
“Everyone you met felt like they were your best friend. Your passion for friendships is something I respect immensely about you and will forever carry with me in my heart.”
“You entered my life and changed it for the better.”
“You have always been larger than life. You shined so bright, everyone felt it.”
“I never met a more gracious and caring person.”
“Your passion will always ignite a flame within me. Gorgeous soul, amazing smile, insane vocals, you’re a gem.”
“Knowing you made my life better.”
“My friend, my brother, my hero, my angel.”
“You were always ahead of your time. We were all just a few steps behind you because of your beautiful gift of ambition and passion for making people feel good. You’re the warmest person I have ever known and I always felt so welcomed when I was with you.”
“Marco was a talented, caring, compassionate, motivating, inspiring, uplifting, charismatic, funny, outgoing, easy to get along with, positive, open-minded, creative, influential, dynamic, smart, down to earth, artistic, blessed and beautiful soul.”
Perhaps, Marco is best summed up with these three simple words:
“No one better.”
In a very real sense, it is true to say that Marco did command hearts, and drew them together. Because as long as we keep that spark alive in our souls, that undeniable spark which set ablaze the world around him, then Marco’s spirit will truly live on forever. It was undeniable to see the legacy he left behind when I attended his vigil service and then his funeral Mass. He used to sell out clubs, but even at his services, as one person said, it was standing room only, with people pouring in by the minute and filtering out even into the parking lot.
In the end, none of our lives belong to ourselves ultimately, or even to our loved ones, or the people around us. Our hearts are restless until they rest in the hands of Divine Mercy. Marco never belonged ultimately to us to hold onto and not let go. Like all our lives, his was a sheer gift of grace from the God who created him, redeemed him, loved him, and called him to Himself. Marco belongs to God, and if our faith has taught us anything, or given us any certainty on anything, it is that we have not seen the last of Marco Lira. For, he was among us for a time on this earth, and now by God’s grace is among the angels, and no doubt entertaining them. And soon, one day, we will be reunited on that glorious day.
In death, it is a pious thought to pray for the souls of those who have graduated from this life, in the event they are being prepared for the Great Wedding Feast we call heaven. Therefore, we offer prayers for him, knowing that Marco could never be outdone in generosity to anyone, and especially even more so after this temporary life in eternity. If our prayers of any benefit to him, he in turn will never cease to pray for us once he enters the Feast. And it is also a pious thought to remember that death no longer has the final say, for it has been swallowed up in the victory of the Resurrection. The Cross is where Jesus destroyed death, and the Resurrection is where he restored us to new life. Thus, we can say with moral certitude, that death is not “goodbye,” but rather, “Goodbye for now, my friend. I will see you very soon.”
When I gave my eulogy for Marco on 10/19/2015, one day before what would have been his 33rd birthday, I recalled a particular memory that, by now, many are familiar with. Marco always identified me as his “spiritual guide” or “spiritual advisor” or “spiritual director.” Truth be told, he came to me numerous times over the years (normally through a phone call or simple text message) asking me to pray for him, or to remind him of his worth in the eyes of God and in my own heart. Sometimes, our conversations would last no more than a few seconds. He would call and say, “Hey kid, it’s Marco. Can you remind me who I am?” And I would simply say, “You’re Marco Lira: adopted child of God, redeemed and loved intensely by God, worthy of amazing love.” He’d say, “Thanks brother, please keep praying for me. Let’s catch up soon over coffee, sound good? I’ll hit you up soon.” He’d hang up, and weeks or months might go by. This, often, was the extent of my relationship with him. On rare occasions, we’d meet up and talk more in depth about these fundamental truths and concepts. But the norms were these quick late night calls and reminders.
This persisted for years. I was always trying to make sure I was available to him when he needed me, and how he needed me. There was just as many times where I would try to call or text him, and I would never hear a response… at least not immediately. The response might come days or even weeks later. Either way, it was always important for me to let Marco know that I was available to him whenever and however he needed me to be.
And then came the time when Marco called me and said it was important we meet for coffee, and I just so happened to be going through a horrible depression for some time. It will always remain with me that, little did I know, Marco had called me because he knew I needed someone to be there for me. I just wasn’t prepared to show up, only to have Marco embrace me tight and whisper in my ear that he loved me, and was there for me. That was a moment I will never, ever forget as long as I live. It spoke volumes to me about Marco. As many others have said, it really mattered to him to know that the people he loved were doing okay, and for them to know that he was there for them. I am indebted to him for that memory.
There are countless little memories involving Marco that I will always hold and treasure in my heart, but this particular encounter is one I always want the world to hear. It demonstrates, to me, exactly who Marco was to the world around him, and exactly who we were to him. He held our hearts within his heart. You could never outdo Marco in his generosity. He demanded you give him all of your love and loyalty, because this is what he demanded of himself to you in return.
There are several lessons I have learned from reflecting overall on Marco’s life, and I am sure I will think of more as life continues and I delve more into memories. But here are some of the ones I have reflected on in recent days from conversations with his family, and his family of friends.
Marco did not live in the past, he was very much in the Present Moment, and he was always tuned into the relevance of tomorrow. On one end, I have heard so many stories of people who would go years without talking to Marco, only to run into him and it was as if a day had not passed. Marco was not concerned with how long it had been since you and him last talked. He was more concerned that you were in his life in this very moment, and he knew it was important to make the most of that moment. On another end, I remember once asking Marco if he ever missed his old bands or old music. But to Marco, if it occurred yesterday, it was already old history. He was more concerned with what he was involved with in the present day. I would go on and on about how Drinking & Dialing could have been his ticket to stardom, and yet it was already old news to him. It reflected where he was at the time he wrote and recorded and performed it, and for him, that was “way back then, a different time of my life.” He was already focused on his current projects, and always kept an eye on what tomorrow might bring. In this sense, he always seemed to be a step ahead, never dwelling on the past, and very much enamored with the sacrament of the Present Moment.
Marco put the spotlight on others, and amplified them personally, making you feel Extraordinary and Important even if you did not see it yourself. During the eulogy, I spoke of how I would always introduce myself in Marco’s social circles as “Jon Moreaux’s brother.” Since my brother was the guitarist for InMemory at a certain point, I figured this was an easy way for people to quickly form an identification in their minds as to how to place me. But Marco would never stand for this. We once ran into him at a concert for my brother’s then-current band The Material, and Marco was taking me around and introducing me to everyone around us. To the first guy, I said, “I’m Joe, Jon Moreaux’s brother.” Marco looked at me with shock and was adamant: “Kid, this is the one and only Joseph Moreaux, the guy who taught me Awesome, the guy who teaches me about God. I sang at his wedding! He always tells me I’ll do great things for God because of my heart! This guy is the best guy I know! Him and his wife and his brother, they’re the most amazing people in this world! You should get to know them!” I remember thinking Marco was overhyping me a bit, until I realized this is truly who we were in his eyes. Marco saw something great in me even if I didn’t see it myself. He made me feel more important than I thought I really was. This is a reflection of how Marco treated and saw all his friends and family. He always spoke highly of them and hyped them up, always.
Marco placed heavy emphasis on Loyalty from his friends and family, but did so only because he demanded this absolutely out of himself. We’ve all heard “Do Unto Others…” Marco subconsciously lived and breathed this. There were times he might need you to spend time with him and not leave his side for a length of time. He took loyalty very seriously from others. Even if it could be exhausting at times, Marco demanded you tolerate the exhaustion. The only reason Marco could demand this from others is because it is precisely what he gave to them himself. He always gave you 110% of his love, energy, passion, drive, concern. Marco knew he was not perfect, and he knew he was capable of hurting others and letting them down, and they were capable of the same things. But time would heal wounds, and for him, if he had moved on and forgiven himself or yourself, he expected you to do the same.
Marco feared loneliness, but always found solace and comfort and identity and stability in the context of Community. If there is one true thing that Marco feared, it was being alone. This is a common fear for many of us, because we were created to love and to be loved. Alone, Marco was not exactly sure who he was or what his purpose consisted of. But in the context of others, whether it be one on one with a friend, or surrounded by people socially, Marco found his comfortability, and could shine. Much of my personal ministry to him was helping him understand he had worth and purpose even when had no one around him. But even so, his life taught me the importance of using your life and talents and gifts to be a blessing to others, and that our primary purpose is discovered within the context of living for others. Alone, Marco felt like a fish out of water. But surrounded by people he loved, or even strangers, Marco was in his element of drawing attention for the sake of giving attention to those around him. We were all created to love and to be loved. We were never intended to be in isolation. Marco knew this, and maximized it. If Marco was in a room with people he didn’t know, all this said to him was he needed to introduce himself and meet new people, so as to transform them from “unknown strangers” to “family and friends.” To him, enlarging your circle of family and friends only meant good things, positive things. It meant more people to enjoy life with, and share moments and memories with.
Marco was never concerned with how his talents might benefit him financially, but primarily was concerned with simply knowing how his talents impacted you personally. For the life of me, I always struggled with comprehending why Marco didn’t have a stronger business sense with the music and art he created. Even long after InMemory, Marco was making epic music with various different groups, from BOOM to Sound Archives to Dream Syndicate to various hip hop formations. I always thought everything he touched musically turned to gold. It was simply one of his God-given gifts. I used to tell him if he just focused on one particular group and really kept serious, he could make it easily to the next level. I remember one conversation over coffee where I was telling him this, and he just smiled and said, “You should hear the stuff I’m recording right now. You’d love it.” And then he would play me a clip from his phone, and with unbridled enthusiasm would want to hear my honest thoughts. He seemed uninterested in how his music or art would benefit him personally. He was much interested by how it moved me personally, and how it spoke to others. He truly loved creating music just for the sake of creating it, and purely for the sake of knowing others were listening to it and being impacted. This is literally the only thing that mattered to him.
I once read these words, and they have always moved me and served as a much needed reminder: “It is a facet of our nature that we think and act as if we are going to live forever. Consequently, we do not pay enough attention to the people we love, who are here beside us. In our conversations with them, we are often distracted by other things going on in our lives, so that we do not hear fully what they are saying, or we cut the conversation short in order to get on with our own business. Or we let our own frustrations and agendas get in the way of hearing what they are saying. But when they are gone, we would give anything to have them back to continue the conversation. Any conversation. For even one minute more… Life and death are an instruction to appreciate what we have before it is gone… After a loved one dies, pay attention to the ways the relationship continues.”
Pay attention, because even though Marco’s spirit will live on in our hearts and thoughts and memories, he will also live on in the Great Forever, and will be more alive now than ever before. In fact, death to this life is just waking up from a dream, to a whole new life just barely beginning for him. Heroes and Villains get remembered, but legends never die. And Marco Lira transcends being a Hero and a Villain. He even transcends being called a Legend. I am not sure what term best describes him. He was simply Marco Lira, a man who made sure his mark was known in the world he left behind.
Marco set the bar very high for all of us who remain here. To conclude, this text was sent to me shortly after his funeral Mass by a mutual friend. I think it best sums up who Marco Lira was, who we were to him, what he came to teach us, and what we now are called to do:
“I just received a text from another one of my good friends and it was during the Mass. The text read, ‘Yo man, I really need a friend right now, I’m gonna call you soon.’ I broke down and cried, because that is Marco’s message to me. I can text my friend back and help him, because it’s what I should do as a person, but it’s Marco telling me: You’re up kid! Help out your loved ones.’”
This is what Marco came to teach us, and he set the bar high. Live in the beauty of the Present Moment, let go of past hurts and be quick to forgive, lean on the strength of others during difficult moments, and be available to them during their own difficult moments. Enjoy every second of breath that God gives you, and utilize it to the absolute max. Be vulnerable, inspire others, give the best of yourself and your time and your talents to all around you, and demand nothing less from them in return. Above all, go all out in your love for others, and accept the unmerited love that God wishes to shower down on us.
Love others, and be loved. Marco showed us this in a very real way. Through tears and smiles and lyrics and emotions. He never wasted the emphasis of a raw emotion. His heart drew multitudes and will continue to draw them. What remains now is our response to the life he showed us. “You’re up kid! Help out your loved ones!”
No one better… Not Anonymous Anymore. I love you, Marco. Thank you for everything. I look forward to seeing you again.