Every November 3rd

A tragedy occurred in our neighborhood 22 years ago today that makes me terribly sad every November 3rd.   I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in Dolton, IL.  My neighbors were not perfect, but it truly was an all-American neighborhood.  Every summer night, my Mom, Dad, and brothers would sit in our front yard, and all the neighbors would gather on our front lawn.  We would share drinks and snacks.  We would laugh.  The kids would play games and show off for the adults.  We would laugh some more.  As the sun would set each evening, I knew even then that this was a golden time-something I should treasure and hold close.

There was a family that lived down the block from us that never came down to sit with the neighbors.   There were two boys in the family that occasionally played with two of my brothers.  I played with them when I was young, but kept my distance as I grew older and more wrapped up in my own world to care about anyone on the fringes.

One Wednesday night I decided to walk to our youth group Bible study.  It was a warm night for October, and our church was just a few blocks away.  The images of that night are embedded in my brain–why, I am not sure.  Nothing was out of the ordinary.  I remember walking by Eddie’s house and seeing him wrestling with his brother and some friends in their front yard.  I also remember holding my Bible under my arm and not saying a word or acknowledging them whatsoever as I walked by.  No eye contact.  No words.  A silent cold wind, that’s all.

The next Wednesday, November 3rd, 22 years ago today, was a nice night.  I decided to grab my Bible and head to Bible study.  The air was different.  It was heavy with something I didn’t understand.  I sensed something strange was happening.  I passed a boy named Mikey’s house and he came out shouting, “Eddie is dead!  Eddie is dead!”  In the time it took him to say those words,  the bottom dropped out of my reality.  The golden time was over in a flash.  Done.  Eddie was dead and I was sure it was my fault.  I didn’t say hi.  I didn’t acknowledge his existence.  I was a cold wind in his life, nothing else.

The event of Eddie’s death scarred me.  It was a tragedy of monumental proportions in my 15 year old life that I am not sure I am fully over yet.  I understood my own hypocracy as well as man’s depravity on a level I never knew was possible on that November third 22 years ago.

I miss Eddie.  I know his brother and Mom miss him too.  He was a funny kid.  When we were little, he always made me laugh when we played at the park.  He was just a child when he died.

November 3rd is a holy day for me.  My soul is centered and quiet.  I am somber as I remember.  I am over the “what-if’s”, but I reflect on the state of my own soul and how I am treating those that are not like me.

8 thoughts on “Every November 3rd

  • November 3, 2008 at 4:59 pm
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    Thanks for being real!!
    Love It
    Mike

    Reply
  • November 3, 2008 at 8:09 pm
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    Memories hold so much power. I’ve been saying extra prayers for you today.

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  • November 4, 2008 at 8:57 pm
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    Wow… this is a really thought-provoking post.
    I appreciate your sharing your story. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

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  • November 5, 2008 at 10:35 pm
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    So, I’ve been pondering my reply to this post for a few days now. I completely understand your feelings on the “what if’s”…and the ‘if I only’ will haunt you if you let it.
    When I was in college, suicide hit my family (without going into gory detail online…) the jest of the story is that my step-dad killed himself. That experience taught me some very real things about life, responsibility, attitude, one’s reaction to life’s circumstances – and most importantly about mental illness.
    What I can say with the utmost certainty is there is nothing I could have done to prevent him from killing himself that day. There is nothing my brother could have done, nothing my Mom could have done. There is nothing YOU could have done to prevent Eddie from killing himself.
    There is a part of me that believes suicide and mental illness is the ultimate in evil – and as close to hell as I can imagine. For the person committing the act, they think this is a personal thing, no one will miss their absence, and no one’s life will be affected. They can’t bring themselves out of their own minds enough to ask for help, they feel trapped so they murder themselves.
    Then there are those who are left behind…family, friends, neighbors…little girls who walk by at the wrong time. But the seemingly selfish act is anything but that – it is a very mean horrible act against those around you. It is a haunting act that burns into the memories of those friends, family etc. The guilt, shame, unending set of questions is what is left behind.
    Doesn’t that sound like a scheme that only the evilness of the Devil could dream up?
    After step-dad was gone, I had a decision to make. I could make that act, that ‘thing’ define me and shape my adult life – or I could understand (with a maturity that was way beyond my years at the time) the TRUTH of what happened. I chose the Truth.
    I’m sorry that the Truth didn’t win for my step-dad, or for Eddie. For those things, I am sad. But I am happy that for you and me…we will always choose the Truth, and will do what we can to help those around us see and know the Truth too.
    [insert big group hug here]

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  • November 3, 2010 at 10:14 am
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    I, too, grew up on Dolton’s Meadow Lane, possibly even closer to this family. I remember them, and I remember all too well the weight of this tragedy. I remember distancing myself from them, keeping them at an arm’s length. Rarely did we speak. And on the million+plus occasions that I walked passed their home, I can recall an undefined callousness that I felt towards them. When Eddie died, it was my first experience with the death of a youth, and certainly my first experience with the manner in which he died. I remember being scared. Being sad. And being worried that my indifference had contributed to his fate. How could this have happened, and why did it affect me in the way that it did? Eddie’s death remains one of the defining moments of my life as a Dolton youth, and the one I can point to as my introduction to the hidden pain that can reside within a child’s heart. I can’t say for sure the ways I was changed by Eddie’s passing, but I was changed. As my older sons approach a similar age that Eddie was when his life ended, I am ever more conscious of protecting their hearts. Thank you Michelle, for sharing your experiences with us.

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