Belated Eulogy

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I didn’t go to your funeral. I was twelve and hated being around people who cried. Everyone there probably sobbed into each other’s winter coats and forgot about their sadness when spring came. I couldn’t cry, but I haven’t forgotten.

You sit on the rocks by the water with the wind blowing your white shirt in soft ripples across your back. Your perfect smile lights up your blue eyes like a child first seeing the ocean. I’m wearing my Little Mermaid bathing suit and carrying a purple bucket full of hot sand. Seagulls screech as I run to you laughing. It smells like summer.

The five of us sleep in the lighthouse that night. It’s the most magical place I’ve ever seen. It has a big winding staircase that twists and turns higher than I can climb on my little legs. You let me sleep on the easy chair by the fire while the grown-ups play cards. I fall asleep to your winning laugh as you rake in the poker chips.

The picture of the two of you the next day is hard for him to look at. Your blonde hair is damp from the salt water and your towel is wrapped around your tanned shoulders. You have your arm around him and he looks happier than I ever remember him being. He was with his daughter and his best friend. You made everything more fun for all of us. I wonder why you couldn’t do the same for yourself. A bucket full of water, a striped umbrella and a cooler of beer are in the background.

You’re in our little Toronto backyard, where vines cling to the old stone of our garage. Daddy holds my hand as he walks me home from a tiring day of senior kindergarten. I come running in the back gate to see my favourite friend of ours. But you’re not sitting at the table. You’re not standing by the barbecue. Finally I see you. Lying in the garden on your back. All the flowers are crushed. But I don’t care. I run to you laughing like always. Daddy picks up the bottle next to you and walks away.

“Hey kid,” you say. “Come here. I have something very important to tell you.”

I giggle shyly and step towards you. You have dirt in your hair.

“Don’t drink.” you tell me. Then we both laugh as I try to pull you up without success.

Daddy comes back, pulls you up, and starts to take me inside to see Mommy. I turn back to you and give you a big hug first, getting mud all over my dress.

“I love you!” I shout back to you as I skip inside.

“Not if I love you first!”

Seeing you was the highlight of my day.

I made you a picture every time I saw you. I had to show you all my toys, all my clothes, all my special things. When I ran out, I’d make you something. You loved my drawings. Your favourite thing to say to my dad was, “You’re an idiot,” and later, “How did you get a daughter like this, you idiot?” My dad would just shrug and insult you right back.

You told me I could be something, something bigger than what you, or my dad, had become. You told me your old man said you’d be nothing, and so you didn’t try to be anything at all. So you helped me. You showed me how to hold a pencil, how to tell a story, how to take a picture. You made me work harder to be better. I believed I could be. Graphicc 1 

You’re standing on the back of the houseboat wearing a straw cowboy hat. My dad slings your guitar over my shoulder, puts your Ray Bans on my nose, and grabs the hat off your head for the finishing touch.

“Look cool,” you instruct me. “We’ll frame this one and put it on my mantle.”

I frown like you show me, and let my long curly hair blow across the guitar. You take out your big black camera. Ready?

Click.

Satisfied with the picture, you grab a loaf of bread, and we run to the stern to feed the swans. They show up everyday at this time, a whole family of them. I shriek as they snap at the pieces I give them. They make a lot of noise then swim away to the next boat.

Suddenly the wind picks up. My hair is lifted straight up. Your hat blows off my head in a an instant and flies off the back of the boat.

“Man overboard!” You shout, grabbing the wheel to turn us around.

We search everywhere but the hat is lost. I can still see it today just as clearly; floating on the warm breeze, suspended in the sky, before sinking beyond rescue into the blue.

When they cleared out your apartment they found the framed picture of me with your guitar and cowboy hat, looking cool. It was next to a drawing I made you that day. It’s a drawing of you, me, and your little yellow cowboy hat blowing off the boat, with the caption Gone Forever. You thought that was the funniest drawing you’d ever seen.

A couple years later, you’re sitting on the passenger side up front while Daddy runs into the gas station to get me some Advil. Your long legs are stretched out in faded blue jeans, the seat pulled back all the way. I rub my eyes.

“Don’t worry. She’ll be nice to you,” you say, turning to look at me.

We’re going to the annual pool party, and my former best friend is going to be there. I’m so nervous to see her again, I have developed a crushing headache.

“And if she’s not nice you can hang out with me,” you reassure me. “I’m not getting in the water, but I’d be happy to throw you in!”

I smile despite the pain. I do love swimming.

It’s sunny out as Daddy pulls out of the gas station. I choke down two pills and look out the dusty window. Your tan elbow sticks out of the car as you both sing along to The Doors on the tape deck. You reach behind the seat and tickle my knee. I laugh and kick the back of your seat. It’s always summer in my memories of you.

I did go to your wake. Daddy said it would be more lighthearted than the funeral, a day to celebrate you. I still wore black. It was the first time I wore high heels. They were black boots I bought in a strip mall with the thirty dollars Daddy gave me. He stood outside the store and smoked two cigarettes. He always wore black.

I was the youngest one there. There must have been hundreds of people there. You were always so popular. Everyone hugged me and said how much you loved me. I ate thirteen mini quiches and drank four bottles of water. My feet hurt.

I finally found a chair over by a window. The wake was held at your friend’s bar in the private room upstairs. I sat alone next to a framed picture of you holding a pint and grinning like you always did. A man approached. We looked at each other and exchanged a brief, sad smile. Then he took his glass and pushed it against the picture of you. I didn’t get it at first, as I watched him walk away. Then I realized; he’d been clinking his glass to the glass you held in the picture. It was a last toast between friends. That was what did it. I finally cried. You were such a great friend to so many people. I had never even met that man before. But then again, there was a lot about you I didn’t know.

Graphic 6    I hadn’t seen you in a while. Daddy told me you were in a bad place and that he and I should keep our distance from you. I didn’t understand. I thought you were always so happy and full of life. When they found you, you were surrounded by empty pill bottles and hastily written notes. I never found out what all the notes said. But I thought I’d write one to you.

 

I remember the days in the backyard, the summers on the beach, the way you always supported me, and the crazy things you’d say. There was no one like you, and I doubt there will be again. You played in a band, were the life of the party, and had an endless supply of mocking jokes for my dad and compliments for me. You were charming, handsome, witty, wild, and free. You had it all, you just didn’t see it. I wish you’d stuck around. There is still so much for you here.

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There’s so much more to write too, so much more to remember, but you weren’t one for too much sentiment. So for now, Cheers. To one perfectly imperfect life.

 

To my friend

We miss you. Always.

By Ashley Foy

featuring photography from @_mayfleurs !

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