The mournful cries of Julieta Riofrir were the only sounds that broke the silence during a graveside service Saturday in Glendale for her son, Julius, the 17-year-old athlete who died after being struck in the head with a baseball.
The burial at Forest Lawn Memorial Park concluded Southern California's latest prep sports tragedy. Julius was critically injured by a baseball that ricocheted off the side of a batting cage and struck him in the head during a pregame warmup for his American Legion team last Sunday. He was the fifth young athlete this year to die in a sports-related accident in Southern California.
One day later, physicians at Glendale Adventist Hospital declared the baseball standout brain-dead due to massive swelling.
The family donated his liver and kidneys to patients in need of those organs. Early Tuesday morning, with family and a few close friends present, Julius' ventilator was turned off.
At Incarnation Catholic Church in Glendale, where Julius' funeral was held, congregants remembered him as someone who put others before himself, whether as a friend, baseball player, Boy Scout or student at Glendale High School, where he recently graduated.
Monsignor Eugene Frilot, the priest who presided over the funeral Mass attended by about 500, spoke directly to the many young people seated in the front pews of the ornate sanctuary.
"Sometimes things happen in our lives that are difficult to understand and they test our faith," he said. "Just as a seed must die to produce fruit, we must believe somehow that Julius' death will produce good things; that is our faith."