A life like no other, fully lived, though short
An only child and first grandchild, Daniel was a rock star in the family. He was everyone’s little kid, light and warm with a loving energy. Until fifth grade, Daniel was the ideal student, a “brainiac” as his dad Jaime put it. He also won attendance and principal’s awards. In sixth grade, something changed. His interests went beyond what school was teaching. He wanted to go deeply to the core and meaning of things, to dissect, not learn by rote.
Daniel had a level of sensitivity and tender-heartedness that attracted many girls to be his friends. A natural listener and counselor, they would go to him for advice about their boyfriends because he was trustworthy and wise. One young woman said Daniel saved her life when she was at a low point.
Daniel adored his dad, was proud of him, and wanted to impress him. His dad admits he spoiled Daniel, providing play stations, skateboards, bikes, scooters, and lots of video games, though he did put his foot down about Grand Theft Auto. “I just wanted him to be the best version of himself,” Jaime said. His mom, Denise, said, “From day one he changed my life. Daniel gave me purpose. He was my bud; he could be goofy with me. There is no replacing that relationship with him. I feel I am still expanding as a person because of Daniel. He is just as much alive with us today.”
Daniel loved nature and all living beings, especially his dog Birdie. He was complex, spiritual, happy, and loving with his friends and family. A humble kid, he enjoyed expensive clothes and nice belongings, but also appreciated what he was given and knew how fortunate he was. Like his dad, he was an entrepreneur. He made money buying and selling t-shirts on Instagram. On trips to his dad’s native country, Columbia, he was a king. His good looks and swagger attracted the attention of many. But the opinion of others did not sway him. He was true to himself.
During a particularly difficult time of Daniel’s active addiction, his parents sent him to wilderness therapy in Utah. He thrived in the desert. When he came back in November of 2018, he was more mature and stable. The sometimes-troubled relationship between Daniel and his dad healed and flourished. Through 2019, Daniel was drug-free, self-reliant, and independent. He and his stepmother, Claudia, were content and playful together, though she had to bug him about having all the plates and glasses in his room!
Since Daniel’s death, Jaime has started a non-profit with other parents called VOID (Victims of Illicit Drugs). VOID educates the public about the problem of fentanyl and counterfeit pills and the prevalence of fentanyl poisoning. “People are being deceived to death,” Jaime stated. Dealers are pressing their own pills with fentanyl and marketing them as prescription Xanax, Percocet, and other medications. They are readily available on social media platforms, and one pill can be lethal. “This is a complex problem, and it will take a lot of motivated individuals to fix it,” Jaime stated. “At first, I wanted to find the person who sold Daniel that drug. Now I am more interested in helping others and saving lives. That’s how I honor my son.”
Daniel’s parents, Jaime Puerta and Denise Johnson provided the information for this narrative.
April 25, 2003-April 6, 2020
Age 16-Lived with the disease of addiction for two years.