Jose Feliciano Remembered

Now I feel a difference
Nowhere near “They have blue eyes and I have brown.”
Not just looking different
But not as extreme as me being crazy.
A “different” that can be considerable in a world where everyone strives to be the same.
A “different” as in I want to be the only one Different.
A “different” where  can be happy and everyone can accept.

-A poem by Jose Noel Feliciano as it appeared in Miami Beach Sr. High’s Embryo magazine.

As he lay in the hospital bed with tubes feeding oxygen into his lungs, Jose Feliciano scribbled something on a white sheet of paper.

“Thank you all. Just know that I feel GREAT. I know I can make it and be with you all again. No more machine. So we are going to WET N’ WILD.”

Jose’s friends like telling that story because it described his character: an upbeat, fearless 22-year-old who played the bass guitar, turned up the volume dial when Wish You Were Here by Incubus aired on the radio, and laughed with a high-pitched giggle that made others laugh with him.

Few knew how sick Jose really was. Friends knew he had pulmonary hypertension. They knew that he had to carry around a Game-boy-size electronic device that would inject medicine into his heart. But they also knew Jose had survived two car accidents. It’s a fact his father liked to remind his son weeks before his death.”I would tell him, ‘If you survived those two accidents, then you can survive this,’ ” said his father, Jose Feliciano.

But to survive pulmonary hypertension, Jose would’ve needed three organ transplants. A heart. Lungs. A Liver. Jose’s pulmonary condition caused his organs to wear out. His heart pumped faster and the blood would accumulate in his liver. He died at the same hospital in which he was born 22 years ago on Jan. 11, 1980. Jose was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital on February 21st. On March 26th, Jose Feliciano died of complications from pulmonary hypertension.

During those 32 days, Jose was surrounded by dozens of friends and close family members. He would use a black magic marker and white paper to communicate with his friends because a tube, which traveled into his mouth and down to his lungs, prevented him from speaking. He left behind 18 pages filled with scribble, which his father has tucked away in the upper left hand drawer of his son’s dresser. It’s next to a photo album of his kindergarten graduation.

In car trips, his father would sing along to a radio song — U2, the Cars, or the Police. Jose, then 5,  would crawl up to the front seat and bounce along to the music and look at his mom and laugh. Later on friends would describe Jose as the type of guy who would sing along to his favorite song, even if it drew curious stares. In high school, it drew a curious stare from Shana Sais. Sitting on a black picnic table singing at Miami Beach Sr. High, Jose Feliciano sang Colors of the Wind from the Pocahontas soundtrack, “And you’ll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon.” Shana overheard Jose mumble to himself, “What’s a blue corn moon?” Everyone realized he was funny. He didn’t try. He would mumble little things,” said Shana who sang for the school’s Rock Ensemble class. “He would make fun of everything. The way he said things, just under his breath, naturally. It was just him.” The two soon became friends. Jose met more people through the Rock Ensemble. That’s how he met Ian Venters, Roger Houdaille, Rodolfo Troncoso, Blaise Girard, Jorge Ocsas, friends he would jam with.

Jose loved music. Incubus, Metallica, System of a Down, and Deftones are among the many CDs racked up on his wooden dresser. An AirPro bass guitar stands upright against its stand. His father placed it in the center of the living room with a fake rose in between the sixth and seventh fret. A picture of his son playing it has slunk down to where the strings end. A 20-ounce, unopened bottle of Dr. Pepper rests on top of his father’s stereo. It was Jose’s favorite drink. These were the objects he used in life.  These objects decorate a small, one-bedroom apartment in North Miami Beach where his father mourns his son’s death daily.

“He was so strong, he deceived everyone. He didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him. He fooled everybody,” said his father.

Among the objects his father shows when asked of his son is a letter from his doctor in New York, Robyn Barst. It was written a few days after Jose’s death. “Although I know it is so very difficult for you now, I believe the warmth of your memories will help you put your life together and go on.”

In addition to his father, Jose Feliciano is survived by his mother Esmeralda and his 16-year-old sister Jennifer.

-This article originally appeared in a zine for the band The BJ Experience, summer 2002.

Read the latest car news and check out newest photos, articles, and more from the Car and Driver Blog.