Even those who had falling outs with their smiling, suntanned friend showed up Saturday for what Pastor Mark Fitter called Bryan Dakota Ferguson's "graduation ceremony."
"It just sucks, because he was such a great guy," friend Keenan Duran said of
The two met in third grade: Ferguson was the first friend Duran made upon moving to the area from Mexico. "We became so close. In high school, we spent almost every day together. ... We didn't speak for the past year—but I still love him."
The end of life is just a transition, Fitter assured Duran and the hundreds of others who attended Saturday's memorial service for Ferguson, who was remembered for his "contagious laugh" and "big, beautiful smile."
"Today we are here to celebrate the life of Bryan Ferguson and his graduation into eternity," Fitter said from behind a lectern at .
Ferguson, who was earning an AA degree at Saddleback College at the time of his death, grew up skateboarding, bodyboarding, surfing and playing practical jokes. Always athletic, he played soccer and baseball, then in high school at Dana Hills ran cross country and competed in lacrosse.
He played the violin beautifully, spent hours perfecting skateboard tricks and displayed an affection for reptiles, Fitter said. Between ages 10 and 13, Ferguson served as a junior lifeguard, and he loved hiking and cooking, especially for other people.
Fitter delivered his eulogy while flanked by two pictures of the Dana Point resident.
One, in black-and-white, showed Ferguson in a plaid, flannel shirt, looking into the distance. The second featured the same gaze on Ferguson's face as he sat shirtless on the beach.
Fitter also read from a letter written by Ferguson's father, Jeff, to the eldest of his two sons: "Bryan, I am at a loss for words for how much you meant to us. Your time here on Earth wasn't long enough for any of us. I'm missing you."
Although Ferguson was the one "graduating," said he was more like a teacher. "Always the loudest person in the room," he pushed his friends to do 360s on their snowboards when they were too scared, and encouraged his girlfriend to go to college.
"I remember [him] telling me: '2012 can bring it, because I'm not afraid of death,'" girlfriend Natalie Williams said.
Ferguson always made his friends laugh. He was passionate and strong, and always stood his ground, whether it was about what "we should eat for dinner or the Celtics," Williams said.
"I miss everything about you," she added. "I miss you chasing me around the house like a monster."
A video slideshow depicted Ferguson with a full head of dark hair even as a baby. There were images of him wrapped in blankets in the delivery room, cradled by his father in scrubs. Photos flashed on the screen of him carrying a surfboard over his head, riding motorcycles and jumping waves on jet skis as a child.
During the eulogies, one friend said he was nervous about speaking in front of so many people, but remembered Ferguson taught him to "not let fear run your life." He learned from Ferguson "common decency, which really isn't that common."
Another said he looked forward to seeing Ferguson again, where he would "show us all the cool things we can do in Heaven."