I got an email from my buddy Ed Thursday telling me that a.) a guy we knew from church had killed himself. b.) A guy I went to junior high school with had drowned recently and c.) another classmate of mine was seen turning tricks on MLK.
Ed is the historian. His family (like mine) is from The South, but his folks are a good ten years older than mine and perhaps more of their "old school" traditions stick. He keeps his ears to the ground and seems to know the scoop on everyone, a neighborhood that streches from Lynnwood to Renton. Me, I find the ties of family and community more of a hinderance or burden myself. I tend to be more interested with "the now" and "the future" and I'm often surprised when I can't remember names and faces of people I knew 10 or 15 years ago.
Anyway, David -- the fella from church who killed himself -- wasn't someone I could say I kept up with over the years. My main recollection of him was a weekend in the summer of 1980 when, after a mostly boring and restless summer with my father in Georgia, Ed's middle sister took Ed, David and me up to the Pacific National Exhibition near Vancouver B.C.
I remember a lot of early teen-age silliness (not all too far removed from current early middle-aged silliness, now that I think about it), playing Tail Gunner and SpaceInvaders until my thumb ached and about 15 trips down the giant slide (they actually stopped charging us after awhile). David was a natural comedian, yet there was something tragic about him even then.
Ed and I wondered if he was gay.
I can't say I recall much more than that. But I bet Ed could.
My cousin just happened to email me the next day and I passed on the news. He was shocked and called Ed to find out when the memorial service was...2PM Saturday. He and Ed were going and I was compelled to attend as well.
I can't say when the last time the three of us were in the same room together. I actually got there first. The sky was threatening rain and I was on my motorcycle, so I showed up in jeans and my leather jacket. Ed came in next and my cousin arrived shortly after the service started on his bike as well.
We sat in the back.
The service was about a quarter full. There was an funary urn on a table and picture frame with a couple of snapshots of David in it. There were lots of faces I kind of recognized, but since I'd left the church something like 20 years ago, I wasn't sure how I'd be received, so I kept a low profile.
The service was a very typical Jehovah Witnesses'-type thing:
God is love, but because of Adam and Eve, all men sin, the wages of sin is death, death is a sleep-like condition in which the dead feel, sense or see nothing, there is no soul that lives on after the body expires, but through God's love and Jesus' sacrifice, we mortal sinners have the hope of salvation, resurrection and eternal life in paradise. etc, etc.
This message was delivered with about as much passion of the reading of a grocery list.
There was actually very little said about the deceased. I remember a skinny kid with a 10,000 watt smile, big brown eyes and that he was funny...and maybe (probably) homosexual. I don't know why he did himself in, though Ed thought he might've had HIV. Instead there was a brief listing of his surviving relatives.
I was somewhat angered by this...the same thing happened and my father and stepmother's funerals. Anyone could've been in the casket, just fill in the blank.
After it was all over, Ed and my cousin worked the room. I hung back, feeling rather sheepish. I guess my inchoate reasons for being there were to pay my respects to a childhood acquaintence...and learn something more about him. But there was no revelation.
Instead, I was reintroduced to some folks that I hadn't seen or thought about in years. Names got tossed around, some still with us, others long gone. Then my cuz had to run off to pick up some boots for his wife and we all promised that we'd get together soon. I sped home hoping to pick up some food before it started to pour.
Rest In Peace, David.
I think you deserved better.