Learning from Loss
By Ava C. Green, Features Editor
Last November, wearing the same jacket he wore on the day I interviewed him, Anthony Fuszara unknowingly hugged his best friend, Daniel Vela, for the very last time. They took a photo that evening that Daniel’s mom insisted on taking, although the boys contested. Fuszara said he’s now very grateful that Mrs. Vela captured a photo of this special day.
Daniel Vela was a third-year pre-med chemistry student at Canisius. He and Fuszara had an immediate connection, becoming close friends early on in both of their collegiate careers. “Dirty Dan,” Anthony affectionately recalled nicknaming him, “was a friend to all,” noting how he always kept his dorm room door open to others. Daniel valued friendship and loyalty, and he was keen on constantly vocalizing the deep love and care he had for his friends and family.
“I remember thinking, ‘My Dan!’ I hadn’t seen him since his medical leave in September,” said Fuszara as he happily reminisced on that bittersweet moment of seeing his friend after many long, challenging months.
Anthony said he “knew something was up” over the summer, even before it was found that Daniel had developed a stage 3 germ cell tumor. “His voice was different and not as loud as before,” he said. “It honestly made me uncomfortable.” Fuszara’s own mother is a cancer survivor, so he was no stranger to seeing a loved one go through a similar sickness and treatment. He said he went through a whole new world of hurt seeing his best friend suffer in such a way.
Just a month after Daniel’s diagnosis, Fuszara’s grandfather started to grow ill, and his health suddenly began to decline. He peacefully passed away in August of 2021 at the age of 93 and surrounded himself with friends and family during his final days. Anthony applauded his grandfather’s acceptance of change and the abundance of affection he always showed to those around him — two qualities that Anthony also saw in Dan.
“It all happened so quickly. I wasn’t prepared,” he said in regards to the shock of Dan’s death just a day after starting hospice care. Anthony said he felt like he had time to prepare himself for the fact that he was going to lose his grandfather, but losing Dan brought back familiar feelings of sudden and gut wrenching loss.
“Losing Daniel was like losing a brother,” said Fuszara. The one-two punch of losing two family members left him feeling hopeless. Anthony found himself frustrated, thinking, “Why is it always the good people?” and “This isn't right,” as he was still mourning the loss of a friend who passed away months before his grandfather.
Kimi Scrivini, a Canisius business student and close friend of Fuszara, passed away in the spring of 2022. Her death sent a shock through the community; Anthony deemed it “completely unexpected,” adding, “People lost a friend, a daughter, a sister — it was terrible.” He said it was unfair that people so young and making such positive impacts on their community, like Dan and Kimi, were gone when it felt as if their stories were unfinished.
Anthony commended the strength of these people, but his own strength was what shone through during the retelling of his experiences. Anthony refuses to let these losses be in vain and finds himself using the unique perspective that all of this has given him to guide him through his own life.
Anthony endorsed using the Canisius Counseling Center which is located at 105 Bosch Hall and is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. His sessions have been no cure-all, Fuszra noted, but he says they have helped him develop healthy coping mechanisms and start to make sense of this extremely challenging year. The Counseling Center provides individual counseling for students struggling with grief or mental health issues. It’s completely free, and walk-ins are always welcome.
“Not everything is linear,” Anthony told me as he reflected on the past year. He said that there’s no way to feel the same after losing people that are important to you. It has been an ongoing healing process for him, but after accepting that there is no “normal” after losing such important people in his life, he has found that an end to the sorrow is in sight.
These experiences were undoubtedly tragic, but they brought Anthony self-awareness and personal reflection in bounty. He said he’s picked up journaling again and that he knows that the people he has lost would want him to open up and be more vulnerable; this serves as his motivation.
When asked what the biggest lesson he learned from losing Dan was, Anthony said not to waste time and to “eat your cheesecake.” He said, “Life is too short to not enjoy the things you love, and Dan loved cheesecake.” Daniel Vela also loved his friends and family with all his heart and didn’t waste any time expressing that and wearing it on his sleeve — Anthony plans on doing the same.