By Erin Breen
At 34, Emilio Parga is full of life. He is fit, energetic and enthusiastic about his plans. It has taken him years of living to realize that his calling is in educating us about death.
“I have lost so many family members and friends,” he said. “When I was 11 years old, I lost my biological father. And there really wasn’t anyone there to talk to about it. I needed to hear from other kids who had lived through that kind of loss.”
When he was 14, Parga was hit by a truck while he was skateboarding with friends. That accident left him in a coma. He has scars that will last a lifetime.
“I started high school in a body cast,” he said. “Most of the kids who knew me didn’t know what to say or how to treat me, so they avoided me.”
As a second-grade teacher and counselor, Parga saw other young children who had lost parents or family members. He saw them searching for support, just as he had done years earlier. Then he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. During his own battle back to health, again, his future became clear.
” I could just feel it,” he said. “I was put here to help all kids understand and cope with these losses. I understand loss. I’ve been through it, and I can help.”
That was just two years ago. Parga has moved forward to make it happen. He has immersed himself in bereavement and grief counseling. He has met with