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Tragedy shapes character, fortifies faith

An unexpected tragedy changed sophomore Nacoya Villegas’ perspective on life. While many wake up each morning knowing their parents are nearby, cooking breakfast or ready to drive them to school, Nacoya lives every day without both her mom and dad.

The day before Villegas’ 14th birthday, cancer took the life of her mother, Rebekah Moulton, on Nov. 29, 2006.

“I was in the car after school when my dad told me she died,” Villegas said. “I just sat quietly in shock, trying to deal with the situation.”

About a year later, another tragedy struck the Villegas family. While at Woodward Park, Nacoya learned of the passing of her father, Raymond Villegas, on Oct. 6, 2007.

“I really miss my dad,” Nacoya said. “I miss his presence. I remember his snore; the sound comforted me at night.”

While dealing with pain, many ask, “Why did this happen to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” Nacoya comforted herself, anticipating the time of learning and growing with the Lord ahead of her.

“Death is not a new thing to me,” Nacoya said. “I didn’t grow up in a sheltered lifestyle. The reality of death was around me. I knew a thing like this was going to happen to me. I knew my dad was going die. It was time for him to go and be with the Lord and my time to grow with God.”

To cope with the grief of losing her parents, Nacoya looked to God for comfort.

“After my parents died, I turned to God,” Nacoya said. “He gives me a lot of strength to persevere through the situation. I also had an entire church who ‘adopted’ me into their families.”

With help from her friends and church family, Nacoya dealt with the pain and loneliness. She confided in her friend Olyvia Franklin, ’10, whom she had known for four years from youth group at Peoples Church and shared the pain with her.

“I was there for her to listen and to give her hugs,” Franklin said. “I’d open up to her too. We really trust each other.”

With the passing of her earthly father, Nacoya now sees God as a father. As she read in her Bible, she found verses that comforted her.

“I see God as my heavenly and earthly father,” Nacoya said. “He said he will leave no orphan or widow homeless.”

The thought of knowing her parents’ pain was gone helped Nacoya cope with this situation.

“I don’t really feel like I lost them,” Nacoya said. “It is just a period of waiting. It won’t be long until I am with them again. I am glad that they are no longer on earth suffering.”

After her parents’ death, Nacoya grew spiritually and emotionally. She learned to appreciate the people around her, for no one knows what will happen in the future.

“I have a pretty joyful outlook on life,” Nacoya said. “Every time I walk out my door there is a new experience. I just let my heart continue to heal as I go through life.”

Currently Nacoya lives with her mother’s sister and her husband, Noni and Henry Perez. She now has a sister Natasha, commonly known as Tashi.

“She’s like a daughter to us,” Perez said. “We love having her around and we are so excited to have another daughter. We spend a lot of time together, whether crying or laughing. We absolutely love her.”

After persevering through this experience, Nacoya provides advice for others suffer from similar circumstances.

“Cry as much as you want,” Nacoya said. “Crying is God’s way of letting you heal. Open up your hearts and let him heal them. Hope is not lost.”

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