Isaiah Gonzalez, 15, was buried at Fort Sam National Cemetery Thursday afternoon after private funeral services were held in the Palm Heights Mortuary chapel. The rising Southside High School sophomore died by self-inflicted asphyxiation on July 8, allegedly following the promptings of the nefarious online Blue Whale Challenge.
Friends and family gathered at the Southside funeral home to celebrate Gonzalez’s life and pay their final respects. Beneath a screen showing photographs of Isaiah throughout his life, the black casket holding his body stood open at the front of the chapel.
Several of Isaiah’s closest friends and family members served as the pallbearers for the procession of the casket out of the chapel. Dressed in white collared dress shirts and black pants, they commemorated their friend and relative with green ties that read “Golf Wang” down the front in black ink.
The term is synonymous with the rapper Tyler the Creator, whose clothing label bears the same name. The reference suggests the influence that popular internet culture may have had on the young man’s life.
“We’d stay up all night playing video games and talking to friends online,” said a friend of Isaiah’s named Ivan. Ivan and several other of Isaiah’s friends commemorated the teenager with speeches given at a prayer service in the funeral chapel the night before.
Last names of the friends involved have been redacted from the story to respect the family’s request for limited coverage of the funeral services.
Ivan later described the influence that Isaiah had had on his life when they both lived in Waynesville, Mo. Isaiah introduced Ivan to skateboarding and helped him branch out conversationally during the days and nights they spent staying at each other’s houses.
Jorge Gonzalez, Isaiah’s father, told KSAT that their family believed Isaiah fell prey to the Blue Whale Challenge, a social media game whereby participants are coerced into carrying out a series of 50 isolating and self-harming task after agreeing to participate in the challenge. The final task is suicide.
Jorge Gonzalez found his son hanging in his bedroom closet. A cellphone resting on a shoe was claimed to have captured, and possibly streamed onto social media, the act on video.
The story has received national media attention as fears over the challenge spread throughout the United States. The game’s origins are said to be in Russia.
Isaiah moved to San Antonio with his immediate family after his father retired from the U.S. Marine Corps. Ivan had planned to visit Isaiah before receiving the news of his friend’s death.
Attendees of the prayer service were encouraged to leave their names and personalized messages in commemorative booklets collected for the family. Bouquets of white and blue flowers were placed next to one of the books and a framed picture of Isaiah smiling in his Air Force ROTC uniform.
Uniformed members of the Air Force ROTC Unit TX 949, representing Southside High School, where Isaiah spent his freshmen year, were present at the funeral and prayer service. Four opened the prayer services with a color guard march down the chapel’s 17 filled aisles.
Daniel Espinoza, a minister associated with the Omega Church in San Antonio, officiated the funeral and prayer services. He drew attention to bible passage James 4:14, which touches on the brevity of life and how it is a time worth celebrating.
These sentiments were shared by other speakers at the prayer service. A friend of Isaiah’s named Jonathan shared a story of how he and Isaiah had spent a day riding roller coasters at Six Flags Fiesta Texas – a day he said he would never forget.
Speakers expressed their love for Isaiah and spoke of memories they would cherish for the rest of their lives. Jose Gomez, who referred to Isaiah as his nephew, read aloud a narrative of Isaiah’s desires from heaven – that those gathered should not be saddened by his loss, but should rather celebrate and embody a life that would bring them all to Heaven so that they may all be reunited.
“I’m getting my wings today,” Gomez read amid audible sobs rising from the pews. “Bye, you guys.”