by Chris de Serres
Do you think about death? I do. You can never experience it until you get there. Death is unavoidable. You can almost say that the purpose of religion is to assuage our collective death anxiety. We fear death, but maybe more we fear that those around us will die and leave us here. Death of a partner is devastating. Death of a child is catastrophic. We don’t know who we will be on the other end of our death. Even on the other end of experiencing the death of those closest to us.
One of my earliest memories was a classmate in grade school. It was the end of the school day. He walked behind a moving bus. The bus backed right over him. He died that day. I don’t remember his name but I saw him in school. Some cried, but most of the people my age didn’t really know how to feel.
My best friend in my teenage years was Eddie Gregoire. We lived across the street from each other. I remember the first day we met as clear as day. I was the new kid moving into the neighborhood. He came over and welcomed me into the neighborhood. He saw all the moving boxes in my garage and was wondering if he could take a few.
If you were ever a new kid in school you couldn’t be more lucky than to meet a guy like Eddie your first day in town. He was big and physically imposing. He was funny and full of life. He was curious and he was loyal. He was a survivor of abuse who was living with his abuser, his mom. She baked me cookies and invited me into her home.
After high school, Eddie and I lost contact. Seemingly out of the blue I would run into him here and there. When I did, it was like it always was. He came over to the house and spent two days straight with me, every hour. We talked, played video games, watched television, and laughed at the antics of my kid brother. Then I didn’t hear from him, until the next time are paths randomly crossed.
He protected my ass many times in school. I was a mouthy kid and always seemed to get into trouble with bullies. I knew though that if I could find Eddie and tell him about it, I wouldn’t have a problem. One kid tried to round up a posse to jump me. I knew it was coming. But it never did. Later I found out that Eddie approached the kid and warned him off.
I remember the one time Eddie called on me for help. Some kids gathered at his house. His foster parents weren’t home and they were about to beat him up. I grabbed my wooden numchucks, got onto my bike, and pedalled to his house as fast as I could. If Eddie felt threatened by these boys it was almost assured they would beat me without a second thought. Maybe I was more touched that Eddie would ask for my help at all. Any beating was well worth taking for Eddie.
I learned alot about life, and death, from Eddie. I was reading the local paper and came across this article. Edward Gregoire had taken his own life while in custody of the local police department. I called my mom over. Do you see this? Is this true? This is his name?
Eddie had a young daughter. He spent some time in the Army and had a rough transition back into civilian life. That I knew. Yet, the Eddie I knew and loved was indestructible. I went back in my head to all the conversations we had. I remember us talking about suicide. I can tell you word for word what he said. “I could never do that.” He just dismissed the idea of it in passing.
I always looked for him, in those fleeting chances that I would run into him, and we would be best friends for a couple of days. Just like it used to be. That would never be a possibility again.