It was February, 2010, when a friend messaged me on Facebook.
“Did you hear David died?” he asked.
“He died in his sleep. His parents found him the next morning.”
David was named the Unsung Hero of our varsity football squad and he was our Offensive Lineman Of The Year. We thought his enthusiasm for the game was inextinguishable.
David was the first guy to tackle me in scrimmage camp. Coach asked me if I was okay, and I said, “Never been better.” David helped me up and he taught me how to get into stance and do a proper block. He was a great mentor and a great friend.
I remember a lot of people from the grade above me changed their profile picture to include David — whether it was a picture of themselves posing with David, or just David himself. I thought about changing my photo, too, but I didn’t have any pictures of myself with him.
When I was 20, a sophomore in college, I remember getting a phone call from a friend.
Her voice was strained, almost as if she had been sobbing just before she made this call.
“He’s dead,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”
Aaron and I had been friends since middle school – we played Warhammer together, which was introduced to me by my next-door neighbor, Saul. We had sleepovers and talked smack to each other.
“You can’t be serious,” I said to her.
“No, it’s in the papers. He jumped from the library,” she said.
I did a quick Google search, and splashed on the front of a website, there was his name. He had committed suicide in the most spectacular and agonizing way possible.
For some reason, a memory of Aaron, Saul, and I drinking espresso at Aaron’s house came flooding back at that moment I realized that he was gone. “I’ve never had espresso,” I said. “You won’t be able to go to sleep tonight,” Aaron said. “Just try me,” I said. I really didn’t go to bed that night. I went home wired, and ended up with Blink 182’s Adam’s Song stuck in my head for the rest of that night, looping endlessly, until my tired, bloodshot eyes finally broke free of the caffeinated stranglehold that held onto my consciousness with conviction.
The last moment I had with Aaron was during Memorial weekend, when we had all gone to a BBQ at Quinn’s house and we played frisbee together. My brother and Aaron talked mostly about soccer. Aaron’s favorite player was Gianluigi Buffon, and he had the keeper’s jersey on that particular day. Aaron told us about the time he went to Italy, and about the time he went to see a Juventus game. We were all jammed in a car — I don’t remember for what, but I remember all of us smiling, not knowing it would be the last time we’d see Aaron.
In 2008, our former high school quarterback had gotten in a devastating car accident and was in a coma for 10 days, until he succumbed to his injuries.
I didn’t know Paulie too well, but I knew that apart from his cocky attitude was a kid who had a giant heart and was most devoted to his family. When I heard that Paulie had gotten into a serious car accident, I was with my friend, who had also played football with me and Paulie. Tim was crying when he told me. “I pray to God he makes it, man,” he said to me. I hoped that too.
It was mid-August when we all found out that Paulie passed away from his injuries. The entire town was grief-struck.
“Are you going to the wake?” Tim asked me. He already knew the answer, though. Everyone was going to go pay Paulie their respect.
There was a long line out from the funeral home. His brothers and sisters and his parents, with swollen eyes, their trembling lips, tear-soaked tissues, all managed to thank each and every one of us for coming. I didn’t know what I was going to say when I knelt down to pray. I thought hard about what I was going to say to him, but when it was my turn, my mind erased the scribbles that I had made.
“Hey Paulie, it’s me. I know we weren’t close, but I really appreciated you helping me out in the huddle when I didn’t know the plays. You were a great leader. You were a great person. We all miss you.”
Paulie’s brother clasped my shoulder and said, “Thank you,” to me.
As unexpected death is, we all expect to die. But it’s the manner in which we die that we think of most. Will we die of old age? Will we be torn apart by war? Will a botched surgery destroy us from the inside? Will our bodies shut themselves down on us?
In the midst of the barrage of these formidable questions that life might throw at you, one thing is certain. If you are alive, you can’t wait to see next morning. But it’s when you start thinking of how everything started. You won’t realize until it’s too late, but that’s the beginning of the end.