SMC in Mourning

A memorial remembering Gayle Sosa took place at the Soka Gakkai International - USA Community Center on Oct. 1. Sosa, who was an administrative assistant in the Facilities and Maintenance Department for the past 10 years, died on Sept. 26 in a three-car crash on the 22 freeway in Orange County.

The service was emotional and overfilled with people all mourning the death of Sosa. Mourners poured into the lobby, and additional temporary seating had to be brought in because of the unexpected turnout of the memorial.

Sosa, 51, was a devout Buddhist who dedicated her life to helping troubled people she knew find meaning in their lives through the practice of chanting and understanding the Buddhist dharma of utilizing compassion and peace to create happiness.

The ceremony began with the chant of 'Nam Myoho Rengo Kyo,' the devotion and action of carrying the law of life through cause and effect.

Afterwards, the ceremony featured the offering of incense as a prayer for eternal happiness of the past, present, and future. This initiation united everyone attending the ceremony in helping Sosa's spirit reach the next step in gaining enlightenment.

"Gayle did her part to help humanity," Santa Monica College President Dr. Chui Tsang said at the ceremony.

Sosa used her religion to transform her environment into a more positive place.

J. C. Keurjian, SMC Department Manager, knew Sosa well and gained valuable life experiences from her. "She encouraged me every day to be better, to try harder. When I was down, she lifted up my spirits," she said. "She was the most encoring person I knew... she encouraged me each and every single day."

Juan Erquiaga, a new SGI member who met Sosa in the final weeks of her life, expressed his deep connection with her in his brief period of knowing her. "She shared her experience with me," he said. "She shared her life values with me. I know that she wouldn't have wanted us to be sad."

Sosa's husband, Juan Sosa, who was suffering from alcoholism at the infancy of their relationship, overcame many of his obstacles by the force of Sosa's energy towards helping him. She would constantly cajole him into chanting and focusing on his problems. Eventually, his wife's support helped him get through difficult times.

Sosa was the co-advisor of the SMC student Buddhist club, the Value Creation Society, and an active member of the SGI, a Buddhist network that actively promotes peace, culture, and education through personal change and contribution to society and the local environment.

Wendy Stone, Sosa's sister, could barely compose herself before crumbling to tears when explaining her sister the night of the crash to the mourning crowd. "I was there the night of the crash," said Stone. "I knew that [Gayle] was seriously hurt, but she whispered in my ear that she was okay. 'I'm okay, Wendy. I'm okay.' That was the night that she died... the night that I will never forget."

Sosa left behind a brother, Brian Jacobson; a sister, Stone; a husband, Juan Sosa; and a 14-year-old son, Juanito Sosa Jr.