As family and friends, teachers and teammates, made their way into Serenity Funeral Home in North Lauderdale on Wednesday morning, they received a card honoring the life of Nicholas Dworet.
On the front was a his senior yearbook photo, the 17-year-old in a tuxedo with what his family called his “million-dollar smile.”
On the back, a quote from motivational speaker Eric Thomas:
“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
Nicholas’ family would say he did just that even if his life was taken far too soon.
Hundreds made their way for a private viewing and service on Wednesday, one week after Nicholas and 16 others were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a little more than one month before Nicholas’ 18th birthday.
Cars filled into the neighboring parking lot at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Roman Catholic Church to accommodate for the large number of people who came to pay respects for Nicholas — a son, a brother, a student and a gifted swimmer who had aspirations of competing in the Olympics. Some brought bouquets of flowers to leave behind. Others wore buttons with Nicholas’ picture on their shirts.
In their online obituary, Nicholas’ family described him as “a romantic, a dreamer, a mentor to so many” and said he was “a lover of life, a true friend, best brother ever, a son that brought so much joy to his parents, and so much more.” He was the captain of the swim team at Stoneman Douglas and also competed with TS Aquatics and had received an athletic scholarship to swim at the University of Indianapolis. Teammates gave him the nickname “Big Boss.”
He had a close relationship with his family in Sweden, whom he most recently visited last summer with his longtime girlfriend Daria.
After making their way through the funeral home and saying goodbye to Nicholas, many remained in the parking lot afterward to grieve together.
The family held a public memorial service later in the day at the Parkland Golf and Country Club. Cars entering the complex in droves caused a standstill for about a half mile north bound on University Drive as they tried to get to the country club’s main entrance. Once inside, patrol officers and assistants had to quickly find ways to accommodate the extra influx of cars.
The family had a simple request for those attending: Wear colorful clothing. With the positive impact that Nicholas had on those who knew him, why create a somber atmosphere at his celebration of life?
And while the bright colors were evident with those who entered the country club - greens and yellows and oranges and pinks and reds and blues — it was still contrasted, at least in part, with the reality of why they were honoring his life on Wednesday night.