Billy Cicio was a rock of loyalty and honor in a world full of pain and discontent. He was a lover of life, of family, of friends, and of justice. He was especially a lover of justice, which is why his painful, untimely death is so tragic. It's not simply “who he would become ….” It’s who he already was.
Billy was the first of my three beloved children. He was the first to send my heart to a euphoric level of joy and happiness. When I held him in my arms for the first time, and I looked into his alert eyes, I realized I loved him so much he could break my heart. I promised to protect him until I died. At Thanksgiving break when Billy was only eighteen, the worst nightmare happened: Billy was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma.
If ever a baby was sunny and vibrant, Billy was it. Wise beyond his years, he had the gift of empathy. He was intelligent, intuitive, and mature from the start. He was also compassionate. Even as a toddler, if someone was sitting alone, Billy would see to it that they soon had a companion: clever and witty as he was, he diverted others’ loneliness and made them laugh.
He had one of those real laughs, a contagious laugh, a laugh that made people around him think he was always jovial, but that’s not so. Billy was a serious thinker and an ardent pursuer of truth.
Billy selected his battles with care. In a 2012 essay for the National Honor Society, he wrote, “If I believe in something, I will battle for it, and I won't stop trying. I regret very little of what I've done in the past. It is rare that I make a decision I can't be proud of.” What Billy did fight was injustice.
Billy stepped in whenever he saw injustice, from the playground bully to the arbitrary teacher. Billy fought for justice, honor, family, and friends. He wrote, “My love of family is matched by nothing else.”
He was also patriotic. No one could remember Billy without remembering that he loved his country. He wrote, “It is important to me to be proud of what I do and have honor in what I do. I want to work for the betterment of my country.”
Without even trying, Billy did make people feel safe. Billy’s friendships were not ordinary: they were deep, pervasive, all-encompassing expressions of joy. His friends, siblings, and cousins looked up to him because he was loyal, honorable, and merry.
His siblings, Alyssa and Ryan, who knew Billy’s love best of all, were there until the bitter end. Billy’s love for them was instrumental in forming the strong young adults they are today. For their sake, Billy “did not go gentle into that good night.” The three of them were lifetime playmates, confidants, and friends. They watched TV, played video games, and rode through the woods in Billy’s jeep. Billy was the big protector, especially when Alyssa started to date. Ryan and Alyssa watched their 6’2” brother transform into a ninety pound skeleton riddled with pain. Though he tried to mask his excruciating pain, they witnessed his humiliation and struggled to help him.
With Ewing’s came a series of gruesome infections, smells, seeping and weeping wounds, and weakness that no children should endure. Alyssa and Ryan yearned for the Billy who loved to linger after dinner, to laugh and be with his family. They longed to alleviate his agony and revive his spirit, but instead, Ewing’s made them witness his torment. Try as they might, this was a storm they could not weather.
In his short life, Billy accomplished a lot. He was captain of the kayaking team and the boat building team. He played the guitar in the band. He was fun and funny for as long as he could be. Ewing’s, the persecutor, destroyed both him and his family. His aunt, Christine, was invaluable near the end. She travelled to us weekly in spite of a busy life, and Billy loved her like a second mother. Billy was a creator, not a destroyer. Billy built boats. He took fundamental materials—wood, metal, glue—and lovingly formed them into honest, practical boats.
Billy Cicio earned his life. Now, all that is left is love.
~ Susan Cicio, September 2017