“You’re the one I’ve been dreaming of forever,” Rafael Ramos sang slowly in a halting, tear-filled voice.
His family gathered around him and joined in just before the casket was closed on the body of his 22-year-old son, Satchel Bernard Ramos.
Clasping each other, they sent him off with love, and, fittingly for a young man who had worked in his father’s community theater, with song and a poignant, heart-breaking exit.
That scene unfolded Saturday afternoon in the narthex of the Church of the Redeemer on Whitney Avenue and Cold Spring Street, where more than 300 people gathered for a “service of celebration for the life” of Satchel Ramos.
Rafael Ramos (pictured outside the funeral Saturday) for decades has helped families in trouble in New Haven as the chief code enforcement officer and now deputy director of at the Livable City Initiative, as well as in his role as a community volunteer.
The death of his son a week ago in Providence—especially under circumstances where, like his dad, was helping out total strangers in trouble—brought throngs of mourners to the church. They included mayors past and present, colleagues in the city officialdom, theater friends, and many just regular folks whose lives Ramos and his family have touched over decades. Satchel died trying to help a couple being attacked on the street.
As Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” sounded in the church Saturday, the casket was carried down the central aisle to the flower-filled dais. Light slanted across the immense, soaring white columns of the sanctuary, and mourners filled up every pew and standing room spot.
The atmosphere was one of simplicity and dignity, but also stunned sorrow and inexplicable loss.
It was as if everyone understood that for a man like Ramos, who has spent a career enforcing violations of the municipal code, the death of Satchel (pictured) had violated one of Nature’s basic codes—that your child should not die before you do .
And yet he had.
Click here for an article with more details on how Satchel Ramos was murdered, how the death has sent shock waves through the city, and where contributions can be sent to honor Satchel’s memory.
“We called him ‘Rev’ around the dinner table at Thanksgiving. He leaned into that task,” recalled his grandmother Sandy Righter.
“Sweet Satchel, he used his mentors well, and he mentored others at the Big Turtle Camp,” which dad Rafael established to give city kids their first outdoor experience.
She characterized her grandson as “kind, compassionate, very tuned in.” She also recalled the young man’s travels, including going to Rotterdam as one of the back stagetechnicians with an award-winning production of Ramos’s Bregamos Theater Company.
When Satchel came home he was “so cozy he made each of us feel we were his big adventure,” Righter added.
The only other representative asked to speak and represent the family was Satchel’s then-high school teacher and now Sound School principal, Rebecca Gratz.
She recalled a young man “bright, talented, insightful, always slightly over the line, just enough to remind his teachers not to take it too seriously.”
“Thinking of him today, his final act reminds us that life is about giving, not taking. In the Talmud it is written that whoever saves a single life, it’s as if he saved an entire world,” she concluded.
Rev. Shelly Stackhouse, who conducted the service, picked up that theme: “We thank you [God] for this last act of his life, this selfless act that saved the lives of strangers, in the image of Jesus.”
Then she offered a small prayer: That “Satchel’s sacrifice might spur those who would do violence to put down their weapons.”
For the final goodbye, which had to be with music, she said, his large family all slowly stood and assembled around the casket at the end of the nave and began to sing lyrics from “The Miracle:”
The sun belongs to the sky
The leaf belongs to the tree
The grape belongs to the vine
And you belong to me.
Isn’t it a miracle . . .