Family and friends will offer kind words about him, how he believed that hard and long hours would deliver a good life. He will be laid to rest in an elegant black casket, his mourners dressed casually as his family wanted. And before he is buried, white balloons symbolizing peace will be released into the Apopka sky.
The funeral services of Miguel Angel Honorato, husband and father of three, will be in a Catholic church in the small town just northwest of Orlando on Tuesday, one more in the inevitable next phase of the mass shooting in the earliest hours of Sunday that killed 49, wounded 53 and forever changed Orlando.
Among the first buried, Pulse bouncer Kimberly Morris, 37. During a service Thursday at Osceola Memory Gardens Funeral Home, Morris was remembered for her sweet smile. Three other visitations or funerals were held Thursday. Eight more on Friday. Dozens more are planned across Central Florida and elsewhere until all 49 of the dead have been laid to rest, buried in cemeteries from Orlando to Puerto Rico.
In some ways, the past 24 hours capture the harsh reality of shattered young lives and sudden death: two more surgeries were performed on survivors at an Orlando hospital; the body of Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28, arrived in Puerto Rico for burial and three visitations were held Friday.
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“Orlando is known to the world as a place of laughter and fun,” said Bishop Kelvin Cobaris, lead pastor of Impact Church in the city. He’s spent the week attending vigils and offering prayers and will be delivering the eulogy of Eddie Justice next Saturday in Apopka. “This tragedy has left a city shaken, people without words to express themselves. Darkness covers our city because of all the lives that have been taken and individuals fighting for their lives now. And having to plan all these funerals.’’
For nine days, the Honorato family will hold vigils, the family home and front yard filling daily with well-wishers. Photos of Honorato and flowers lined the walls of the garage. On Thursday night, Honorato’s brother sat outside hoping the fresh air would do some good. He reached for a cigarette, but did not light it, just sighed. “They took a great person,” said Jose Honorato, one of eight siblings. They had came from Mexico, settled in Apopka years ago, eventually opening four Mexican restaurants. “His death is the first tragedy for our family. My brother wouldn’t want us to be sad.”
The next evening, in a Kissimmee funeral home, the bodies of Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37, and Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, rested side by side, just a foot apart, in gray metallic caskets, crowned with flowers. The photos on display told their love story, the couple now bound in life and death. Their families had decided to hold a joint memorial because it just felt right.
“They loved each other, and these families are coming together to grieve together,” Bob Healy Jr, the funeral director of Funeraria San Juan Funeral Home.
Every room of the funeral home was filled with mourners — including a shooting survivor who came to pay respects — alternatively crying and sharing stories, some wearing rainbow striped pins, headbands, shirts and ribbons. The family gathered on couches closest to the coffins.
A church choir and pastor sang songs in Spanish, accompanied by an amplified acoustic guitar. The second selection, requested by the family, was a song in which the title translated to “I will miss you.” In the song, two people — one alive, one in heaven — sing to each other. The chorus: Don’t cry for me anymore/I am in a place of light/Where there is peace/Where there isn’t any evil/Where I can rest/Don’t cry for me/It’s so beautiful here (like I never imagined)/I want to be happy/I hope that everything goes well for you(in your life)/And when its time to go/I hope to see you here.
Within hours of the massacre, as the names of the dead trickled out, Funeraria San Juan Funeral Home began fielding tearful phone calls. First the phone rang, then the doors opened. And now, the funeral home is handling the arrangements of six shooting victims.
“I had to open up one of my chapels, there were so many people here,” said Healy. “They came to be supportive and let these families know they’re not alone.”
Part of the challenge has been coordinating efforts to get family members from abroad to the Orlando area for services, and arranging transportation of some of the victims back to Puerto Rico for burial.
The two shooting victims from Apopka, Honorato and Eddie Justice, were honored Thursday at the elementary school where Justice was once a student. Both were 30 years old, both will be buried next week. Honorato’s funeral is Tuesday; Justice’s next Saturday.
With Justice’s mother, Wilhemina Justice, sitting on the front row, a dozen civic and faith leaders spoke passionately, in English and Spanish, each promising to stand with the families of the fallen, well after the headlines go away and they are left to quietly pick up the pieces.
Orlando is known to the world as a place of laughter and fun. This tragedy has left a city shaken, people without words to express themselves. Darkness covers our city because of all the lives that have been taken and individuals fighting for their lives now. And having to plan all these funerals.
Bishop Kelvin Cobaris
After the vigil, just as the sun began setting, the mourners walked to a nearby park for a candlelight ceremony. Some sang the hymn This Little Light of Mine. Afterward, Justice’s aunt, Varnada Logan, spoke about her nephew. Justice had a heartbreaking text message exchange with his mother during the shootings that started with, “Mommy I love you.”
“He had a very close bond with his mom and that is who he called right before he lost his life. His mother was his everything,” Logan said. “He was a very fun and loving person. He was intelligent and very obedient. He listened to his mother and grandmother. He was reliable and dependable. He will truly be missed.”
About 35 miles away in Kissimmee, dozens of mourners were also gathering at Funerario San Juan, now for the wake of Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36.
Family and friends packed a small chapel for the viewing, crying in deep embraces as they greeted each other. Some wore pins with rainbow hearts on them. Several, including his older sister Frances Ortiz, donned white T-shirts with a black-and-white image of Ortiz-Rivera in an ornate gold frame emblazoned across the front.
“He was a great brother, a great son, and he was a great friend,” Frances said. “You see it here today, with so many of his friends coming to pay respects. And he was like that his whole life.”
As it began to drizzle, Gov. Rick Scott briefly visited the family to offer his condolences. He prayed with family.
Shortly after, as a steady stream of mourners arrived with white balloons and heavy hearts, a few standing outside turned their heads toward the sky.
There was a rainbow.