Archive for the 'Memorial' Category

May 11th 2013

4 Years

Monica Lepper RodriguezWell….I’ve spent most of the morning writing and re-writing this post; in and out of my head desperately searching for something relevant to say. Last year I simply avoided it altogether, but I ended up feeling selfish and guilty about that so here goes another try this year.

What can I say that doesn’t end up sounding either terribly depressing at one extreme or obviously a fake masked attempt at gratitude with a charade of celebration.  The fact of the matter is that it seems I try to ignore the truth of our situation most of the year, but on this particular day all the sadness of the world comes crashing down on me at the same time.  It’s strange how even allowing a hint of those emotions to poke through ends up releasing a torrent of melancholia ranging from: Why her? to Is Kai’s heart healthy? to Does God answer prayers? to How could I let my car get so dirty?  In order to hold back the weight of the emotional burden, I guess I just suppress it all.  At least I have learned how to do that.  I consider it a gift…

So….subject change anyone?

You might have seen a recent viral video going around about a high school student telling his teacher how to teach.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a viewing.  In some small way, it invokes a sense of hope for the future of our children, even if those of us in adulthood might be lazy and complacent allowing the world to crumble around us.  Here is a direct link to the video:

As you know, Monica had a profound effect on the lives of many kids as a teacher, coach, missionary, and of course mother.  Over the years, some of these kids have looked her up online in an attempt to reach out to her and thank her.  Each time one of these young people recalls their experiences with Monica, they express how grateful they are  for her nurturing and guidance.  She was not like the teacher in that video causing so much frustration in her students.  She was a beacon of light, and in some cases, even an angel sent to save their lives.  She showed love to kids who questioned it’s very existence.  She provided encouragement where all hope was lost.  She truly was an exceptional human being among us.  These stories are her legacy, and although she is not with us today, it’s stories like these from people’s lives who were genuinely touched by her, that ensure her memory is not forgotten.

I have a couple of emails from past students of hers who have agreed to let me share their emails with you.  I hope they touch your heart as much as they did mine:

Mr. Rodriguez,

Its Ray Arroyo, I was in Ms.Rodriguez’s 7th grade science class, I think that was the first year she started teaching at McCabe. She was by far my favorite teacher, she even came to a few of our pop warner football games for the Mendota Cobras. I am not sure if you remember or not but I spent a lot of time in the computer lab after school playing that dodge ball game online….  She had a big impact on me, I told her I was going to do big things in the world of science and she actually believed I would, she didn’t look at me as some crazy 12 year old like most people did. Currently I am in the United States Navy, a midshipman candidate for the United States Naval Academy…  I want to be a pilot and after I am done with my commissioning, I hope to work for NASA doing something big in the world of science just like I said in 2001. I know you heard it time and time again, but I am sorry for your loss. I plan to a write a book when I am 60, an autobiography about my life which I think will make a real good story….a poor kid immigrating from Mexico and becoming a NASA astronaut,,,,pretty cool story. The book is to acknowledge the people who have helped me  along the way and Ms.Rodrgiuez is one of them. I will not forget how I said “Ms.Lepper, I’m gonna do this some day.” And she would pat me in the back and said, “Ray, you can do anything you want.” That moment has stuck out in my mind since then. Take care Mr.Rodriguez.
Raymundo Arroyo
Here is another:

Hi Mr. Rodriguez,

I am not sure if you remember me. My name is Verenice Andrade, a proud alumni of McCabe Junior High! Ms. Lepper was my 7th grade science teacher and I was her t.a. when she taught language arts the following year. Two weeks ago, I graduated from UC Berkeley and I spent this past week in Mendota…. I ran into an old friend of mine at the new grocery store. In our short conversation, she gave me the news that Ms. Lepper had passed away… (I apologize if I continuously use her maiden name but that was the name that stuck. I met her before she was married and changed her name). I am in utmost shock. My heart hurts. My friend also told me that you had created a website where you posted updates and had photos. I took the liberty of using google to find your site and I have been surfing through it for the past hour and a half or so, reading posts and looking at pictures. Again, my heart is crying.

…I can’t help but to feel sad. In November, a childhood friend of mine and long time neighbor passed away–he was my age, 21. I am still coping with death in general and so, hearing that Ms. Lepper is gone is very, very hard for me to believe. Though late, please accept my most sincere condolences.

These past few weeks, I have been doing a lot of reflecting and giving a lot of thanks to God for allowing me to end one phase of life–college. In that reflecting, I realized the happiest years of my life (childhood/early adolescence) were during junior high. At that time in my life, I was breaking out of my shyness and discovering that I was good at academics. I tell you this Mr Rodriguez, because during those years, the conversations I had with Ms. Lepper have stayed with me this whole time and have shaped me in one way or another. As a science teacher, she made sure we understood the material, regardless of how many times she would have to repeat herself and we even played “Who wants to be a Millionaire” using physical science as a theme (Sol’s Note: I remember sitting next to Monica as she created that game from scratch using PowerPoint as a tool to “develop” her own interactive game!). I remember during that game, when it was my turn to answer a question I took a while to think about it and used a life line. I had the answer at the tip of my tongue but second guessed myself and said the wrong answer. The whole time Ms. Lepper knew that I knew the answer because she looked at me with a very encouraging look. It was a very genuine look that very few people have ever shared with me. Even though I got the answer wrong, that day was one of the most fun days of 7th grade. It was a great day in my 12 year old mind.

Later, I grew to appreciate when teachers would use their personal experiences to help students understand the material. I remember when we were learning about temperature, she told us she had lived in Ukraine for a while and didn’t have to shave her legs because the winter there was really cold! Somehow, that helped me understand Celsius and Fahrenheit. Her Ukraine story was also in the back of my head all throughout college and so, I decided to go abroad myself. This August I will be taking off to Egypt for one year to continue my education there.

Before this turns into a 60 page email, I just want to tell you something I am sure you already know—Ms. Lepper was a great teacher! Had I not had such greatness around me during those years of my life I am sure I would not have been saludatorian when I graduated high school, much less have gotten accepted to Cal, and now graduated from this university. As I grew older, I also understood the hard work teachers are subjected to and I began to think of the teachers that had been influential to my academic development. Ms. Lepper was definitely on the list! I’ve gotten in contact with some of my old teacher and have expressed my gratitude towards them. Ms. Lepper, thank you!

Warm Regards,

Verenice Andrade

McCabe Junior High 2002 Mendota High School 2006 University of California, Berkeley 2010

Comments Off on 4 Years

May 11th 2011

2 Years

I thought a long time about what to say today.  I even considered not saying anything and just trying to ignore this day… as if it was just another day.  I couldn’t.  As it approached it haunted me.  I thought each consecutive year would get easier and that time would help to heal, but instead life is getting harder and more complicated being on my own; it seems this day is a reminder of how it all came to be.  I miss Monica desperately.  The world has not recovered from the loss of her light.  Those of you that knew her intimately know this.  The memorial video below is a good representation of how many lives she touched.

God help us.  “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”

You can find the video at this link if it doesn’t show up in your email:

1 Comment »

May 11th 2010

We Love You, Mommy



May 30th 2009

Second Memorial Service

Once again we got to see how Monica impacted so many people.  For some reason though, it was a lot harder this time.  Several other people who spoke or made tributes said that too.  Maybe because at the first one we were still numb.  I don’t know. 

We went afterwards to the cemetary to see where she is buried.  That was very hard for me too.  Although I appreciated how beautiful the cemetary is with its giant redwood trees, I couldn’t help but break down.  It’s a place I never thought I’d be.


May 21st 2009

Today Was Different

Today was the first day that things started slowing down.  There is so much to say, I don’t even know where to start…

I had to go back to work full time on Monday this week.  I actually had to go in last week a few times, even while preparing for Monica’s memorial service and trying to be a host.  One of my bosses passed away last Wednesday; just two days after Monica.  I work for a small business headed by a husband and wife team.  Besides Monica, the person that I spent the most time with was my boss.  We worked closely together over the last five years.  I looked up to him and had a great respect for him.  He was a role model and a good friend.  However, since we worked together on the technical processes of the business, I needed to go back in right away to keep the “gears” going.  Everyone in the office has had to be strong and focus.  They are an amazing team.

Even though it’s hard to focus sometimes, keeping busy has its advantages; especially at home.  That’s why today was a different.  Monica’s parents went home today.  Everyone else is gone now too.  It was a “whirlwind” and grand central station for a while around here, but it kept me busy and not alone.  Today I felt the loneliness, though.  My mom is still here helping with Kai and I am grateful for that.  Still, the quieter it gets around here, the louder my thoughts are. 

Kai has been having a rough time.  His teachers said he was crying for his “dadoo” and “mommy” today.  He has asked for her or talked about her every day so far.  A few times he was doing well, and I slipped and called my mom “mom”.  He got very upset each time and said, “No!  Mama’s dead.  That’s nana.”  The other day he was asking for her and I told him again that she was in heaven.  He got very upset with me and said, “No!  you go to heaven.”  It is going to take some time…

I read something that made so much sense about the way grief feels.  C.S. Lewis says, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.  I keep on swallowing.
…There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.  I find it hard to take in what anyone says…  I dread the moments when the house is empty.”

I couldn’t have said it any better, except that I am afriad.  Lewis was older and established when his wife passed.  I worry about raising Kai and where life’s going to lead.  I’ve never known this much uncertainty that was so immediately present in the forefront of my mind.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to try to keep things as consistent as possible.  I’m trying not to make too many big decisions any time soon.  I’ll stay here in Whittier and try to stay close to all our friends and support.  Kai is doing really well at his day care and actually enjoys going to “school” everyday.  I don’t know that we’ll be able to stay in our apartment since we were a two income family, but I don’t want to think about trying to move right now. 

Finally, for those that have been asking, Monica’s parents will have another memorial service for her up north in Paradise, CA.  We always liked being able to say we were married in “Paradise”.  I will be there too.  It will be at the Paradise Alliance church on Saturday, May 30 at 2pm.  I will post an address and more information later.  I know there are many of you up there that have prayed for Monica and loved us for a long time.  I look forward to being there with you.

Good night.


May 19th 2009

Monica’s Memorial Slide Show

Thank you to everyone who came to Monica’s memorial sevice this past weekend.  It was great to have all the support.  I wanted to share the slide show with everyone; especially for those that didn’t make it to the service.  Many of you know that Monica was an avid photographer.  I went through over 50,000 pictures to do this slide show.  It took three days!  I wish I could have put hundreds more in the slide show, but it is already 15 minutes long.  🙂  Thanks to everyone who sent pictures also.

Monica Lynne (Lepper) Rodriguez Memorial from Sol Rodriguez on Vimeo.


May 17th 2009

Future Updates

Things haven’t quite slowed down yet so I haven’t had much time to post, but I intend to keep it up.  You all were such a source of strength for Monica, that I hope to take advantage of the connections here too.

Thank you to everyone who came yesterday to Monica’s Memorial.  We will love her forever.


May 13th 2009

Memorial Plans and a Few Requests

We will have a memorial service at our church this Saturday at 7:00 pm.   Our church web site is  You can get the address, phone number,  and directions on there.

I would like to ask anyone who has special pictures with Monica in them to email them to me.  Monica touched so many peoples lives in so many different parts of the country and the world, that I know there are many pictures of her I don’t have; especially from missions trips, the orphanage in Ukraine, different schools, and volleyball.  I might use some for her memorial, but I especially want them for Kai and myself.  You can email them to me at: sol.rodriguez <@> yahoo <.> com (brackets for spam protection).

I am also looking for people interested in speaking a short tribute/eulogy or story about Monica.  I can only take a few, so I apologize if I can’t use everyone who wants to, but I want to at least extend the invitation to all.  Please email or call me at 562-552-7180.

Thanks in advance.