In Memory of Ghenn

This post is going to be very different from my usual fare. As some of you may know from following my Twitter, I lost a dear friend last week, completely without warning. Normally, I would keep these sorts of things off of Fashion Ninjutsu, but Frankie (or Ghenn, as he was known on FFXIV) both played this game and had been immensely supportive of the site from day one, and when it comes down to it, Frankie was my oldest friend and one of my best. He deserves at least this much.

Frankie and I first met when we were around 13 years old, as we transitioned from our familiar elementary schools into a new middle school—I think we had home economics together first, but it might have been some other class. As a disabled kid, the shift to middle school saw my once robust circle of friends dwindle, as the cruelties of teenage popularity began to dictate that it was no longer “cool” to hang out with the different kids. That sort of thing never phased Frankie, though.

From the start, he wanted to be my friend—a feeling that didn’t exactly begin mutually. Somehow, my addled teenage brain was determined to make my way back into those older friend groups (despite a lot of new forms of mockery from former these former friends). Something about me spoke to Frankie, though, and he never gave up. He talked to me every chance he got and would often find me at the end of the school day, just to talk some more before I ducked into my mom’s car to head home.

His persistence paid off. On one of those trips out to the car with me, my mom gave him our phone number—without consulting me, but it’s clear now that she was somehow wiser than my 13-year-old self. For a long time after this, Frankie called me just about every day. Anyone who knows me outside of FFXIV or the Twitter-verse probably knows that I can’t stand being on the phone for long these days, and that was true back then, too. But at some point, those regular calls became the foundation of a friendship that was wholeheartedly mutual and one that enriched my life beyond measure—I can only hope I was half as important to him as he became to me.

By 8th grade, we were fast friends, hanging out often to play Nintendo 64—mostly games like Goldeneye 007, Super Smash Brothers, and WWF No Mercy. In high school, we moved onto the PlayStation and Gamecube for games like Diablo (he found no pleasure greater than randomly turning around and killing my character in this one), Smash Brothers Melee (where we took every dispute to the bottom of Hyrule Temple), and Phantasy Star Online Episode (where he found too much joy in the never-ending Final Impacts I’d get that my character couldn’t use).

Ghenn’s Lalafell after acquiring the 2B outfit on FFXIV, which—in his words—made him the “belle of the ball.”

But we also bonded over the Final Fantasy series. We’d had a family Nintendo in my youth, with the original, but our house skipped over the Super Nintendo in favor of the Sega Genesis, so I had missed Final Fantasy II/IV and Final Fantasy III/VI. Frankie knew all about them, though, and once I finally got a Super Nintendo, he was sure to let me borrow II/IV, which had always been his favorite in the series. Over time, Frankie cultivated my love of JRPGs, convincing me to try games like Star Ocean and Lunar, too—our tastes didn’t always align here, but he was ever an evangelist for the things he loved (which is how I was introduced to anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Rurouni Kenshin, too—both big parts of our high school days).

High school saw the introduction of a new element to our friendship—Dungeons & Dragons. While I had dabbled a little bit with the old rules on my dad’s bookshelf as a kid, it wasn’t until I met Frankie that I knew someone else who played. In one of our first adventures together (Dungeon Mastered by my dad), my character, a scrawny wizard, died. Classic Frankie ingenuity lead to his decision to put my character’s body in his backpack, which was at the time filled with all manner of pointy objects (because my dad had never liked bothering with irritating encumbrance rules). I don’t actually remember if he got me back to town for a raise dead spell or not because that mental image overpowered everything else in my memory.

These early D&D adventures gave way to many more, often with Frankie’s brother Pedro serving as Dungeon Master. Together, we saved a few worlds (and inadvertently doomed some for good measure). As high school came to a close and our lives began to head in different directions (with my choice for college being several hours away), our adventures moved into the online space. In college, the game of our day was Final Fantasy XI, where we first found our love of MMORPGs.

World of Warcraft came later (where I once drove him off a cliff in my two-seater motorcycle—I had a parachute, and he did not), along with my official departure from our home town for Chicago, after graduating college. On the day I left, ready to begin a new life in a city far larger than the South Bend of our youth, Frankie hugged me with all he could muster. In the moment, I thought he might never let go, and although we were rarely emotionally open with one another, I’m confident in saying that he didn’t want to. Several years later would find me back home, though, and through the shared enthusiasm Frankie and his brother had for A Realm Reborn, I found my way to Final Fantasy XIV, too.

Ghenn in her final form as a Viera—Frankie was much happier playing this way.

I took to the game the most of all of us, but Frankie, as the silver-haired lalafell Ghenn (who would later become a red-haired Viera), always wanted to get back to the game. Eventually he did, long after I had moved away from our original server, placing us on separate Data Centers. On his own (before the Data Center recombination that would eventually reconnect us in the game space) became a member of the Free Company that would eventually grow into the Stellazzio Virtual Theatre of Diabolos.

By this point, my friendship with Frankie had largely moved back to physical space, carried on as it always had most prominently through our years-long Smash Brothers rivalry (he was always better than me, even if I liked to pretend otherwise). But he was also one of the earliest patrons of Fashion Ninjutsu via Patreon, even when we rarely found opportunity to play FFXIV together—whenever and however he could, Frankie wanted to support his friends in all their endeavors. He was the sort of person who sometimes seemed to love his friends more than he loved himself.

But whether he always believed it or not, those around Frankie had as much love for him as he had for them. Nothing makes this more evident than the outpouring of love for him at the wonderful in-game memorial service held by the Stellazzio Virtual Theatre the week of his passing, which I had the honor of attending. With our play times and servers divergent, I never had a sense of just how important Ghenn had become to the company, and how many people he had touched in his time among them. None of that surprised me, though, because Ghenn had love for everyone in his life, from acquaintances to his oldest friends and family.

So many people came out to share their memories and love for Ghenn, from old friends dating back to FFXI to new ones he made as part of Stellazzio and his growing interest in the roleplaying communities around the Crystal Data Center. A long and somber procession, perfect for reflection, followed, taking us all the way from the Goblet to the snowy fields of the Coerthas Central Highlands. At the end we all said our final good-byes, many breaking out the glowsticks in remembrance, not just in mourning—the way, I think, Ghenn would have liked things to be.

For all the love that he had around him, Frankie worried constantly that he was a burden to his friends and loved ones. He wanted nothing more than for everyone to be happy, and as much as we may all be hurting now for the loss of him, I know that most of all he wouldn’t want us to be sad on his account. Right now, the wound is too fresh for me to give him that just yet, but I can promise that my memories of Frankie will only ever be good ones—they so outnumber any bad memories that I can’t say with any confidence that he and I ever had ill words toward one another, in over 20 years of friendship.

Francisco Galicia (variously known as Skyler, Kazalt, Larg, and Ghenn in spaces online) passed on the night of July 21st, 2020 of heart failure—all because his heart was too large, something anyone whose life crossed with his would know without need for x-rays or a doctor’s diagnosis. He was 35. He loved anime, video games, and tabletop roleplaying games, collecting memorabilia (particularly figurines) from all of them throughout his life. He loved his friends and family with all of his heart and most of all loved to make them laugh and to let them knew they were loved, whether he had known them for a day, for decades, or for his entire life.

He loved the quirky, the weird, and the absurd, from anime like Excel Saga or games like Earthbound, and his sense of humor often found its purest expressions through the games he played. Give Frankie a space to express himself without limit and he would create memories wholly unique to him. In a game like Grand Theft Auto that might mean a topless protagonist in American flag shorts fleeing the authorities on a pizza delivery bike. In FFXIV, it meant the “egg room” of his house, which he tragically was never able to finish decorating, but where it was always Taco Tuesday.

The egg room, at least, was perfect, existing solely because he thought he needed one. No further explanation was needed for Frankie, and those who knew him well would know better than to think there was something deeper than that it made him laugh. He laughed deeply and with his whole being, and he spent so much of his life trying to make others laugh in the same way as best he could. I have laughed with and because of Frankie more than I have with anyone else in my life, and anyone else will need the rest of my life to catch up to him on that score.

I will miss you forever, my friend. My life will never be the same without you.

The last picture I have of the two of us together, near the end of 2018—such things were rare, since I have for most of my life hated being under the eye of a camera lens. That’s something I regret terribly in the moment.

Frankie’s family has set up a Memorial Fund to help cover expenses for his services. While they’ve already met the needed funds, anything raised from this point on will be donated to the LGBTQ Center here in our hometown of South Bend, in his honor. As of this writing, the fund should be up through the remainder of this week, with services planned the week of August 2nd.

3 thoughts on “In Memory of Ghenn

  1. Thank you so much for this. I’ve been going back through things since it’s been a month, and I was really happy to find this post. All the outpouring of love for Frankie has given me comfort. I miss him so much and I hope he knew how loved he was by all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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