Remembering Darren Peng

Gloria Kim, Editor-in-Chief

Sweet, sarcastic, strong, supportive: these are the words friends and family used to describe Diamond Bar High School senior Darren Peng, who passed away last month on Jan. 27 from a brain tumor. A week and a half after his death, his memorial service was held at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

On a fair, breezy Saturday afternoon, over a hundred friends arrived at Skyrose Chapel, a sizable hall with large, glass walls and high beam ceilings. The wooden pews were quickly filled, and a handful of guests stood in the back.

With the onset of the sentimental tune, “Over the Rainbow,” a video created by Darren’s friends started, and the audience grew silent, engrossed in the big screen projected at the front. In the video, each of his friends and teachers recounted his or her most impressionable memory with Darren. Filled with stories that revealed many humorous sides of Darren, the video offered occasional moments of chuckle amidst the generally solemn ambience. Many recollected his sarcasm and wit, traits that had made Darren fun to be around. It was his way of showing courage even in situations when it was hard to. By the end of the clip, the congregation had grown quiet, drenched in nostalgia, reminiscing on their own past experiences shared with their friend.

The video was followed by a moving speech from three of Darren’s soccer teammates: DBHS seniors Alex Larcheveque, Vishal Bhupathiraju, and Carlos Amezquita, who reflected on Darren’s athleticism, ambitiousness, and resilience.

The ceremony then transitioned into a special trio performance put together by seniors Denise Castillo, Tiffany Ding, and Eleanor Lee that warmed the hearts of the audience as the harmonic blend of voices, ukulele, and maraca echoed through the capacious hall. Each harmonic tone resonated throughout the quiet hall, causing a subtle, consoling atmosphere to settle in the room.

The song was followed by more speeches made by friends Crystal Luo, Phoebe Ting, and Priscilla Tu; Victor, the father of Darren’s family friends; and Darren’s two nurses. Each story seemed to further bolster Darren’s upstanding character and the optimism and compassion that had left an incorrigible mark in the lives of everyone who had known him.

Darren’s father, Philip Peng, had nothing more to say than how proud he was of his son. He recounted one of his recent memories with Darren, who had adamantly resolved to finish his college supplemental essays despite great physical difficulty. Darren, after having spent over a year in and out of the hospital, had developed a firm aspiration to become a nurse. Unfortunately, right as college application season hit, he was again hospitalized, and due to chemotherapy, was too weak to move his fingers or read words on the computer screen. Nevertheless, Darren insisted that he would finish, grasping onto his long-term goal. So, with the help of his parents—his father typing out the words while Darren spoke, and his mom reading the essay out loud back to him—Darren managed to submit his completed essays in time.

Though he was not able to witness it, he received an honorary acceptance into UCLA School of Nursing program.

To conclude the first half of the ceremony, the pastor from Darren’s church assuredly stated that he would meet Darren again in heaven because Darren had accepted Jesus Christ into his life. Then, with a prayer, the ceremony ended and people quietly shuffled out of the chapel, making their way to the burial site, while the DBHS orchestra, led by DBHS orchestra director Steve Acciani filled the hall with soothing melodies.

At the burial site, the attendees gathered around, watching in silence as the casket was lowered into the ground. Each person was handed a flower and a paper crane, which they, one by one, dropped onto the casket. Darren’s family stood on one side, and friends and family formed a line to give hugs and offer comforting messages.

Even after his death, Darren’s legacy lives on. “Hakuna Matata,” the Facebook page with over a hundred posts and nearly 700 members, was created in remembrance of Darren for friends to share memories of him.

“This is not a goodbye, but a see you later,” Tu said in her speech for Darren.