Friday night I was finishing up decorating my apartment for Christmas, putting up lights, the tree, etc. I was also getting ready to attend the Mike Hunsinger 2nd Annual Memorial Toys for Tot’s Car Show, the next day. Mike was an older gentleman and a friend. He was diagnosed with cancer a little over two years ago and rather than go through the treatment, pain, financial hardships and be a burden on his wife and son, he took his own life. The last couple of years there has been a charity car show in his name.
I decided to take a break from the decorating ad thinking about all the lunches, coffee’s and running in to Mike at work. I decided to look at Facebook to see what all my friends were up to. I really looked at it for the first time in a couple days. In my news feed I saw the news, a coworker and friend that I had once been close to, then drifted away from, had died. Jerome was dead.
Unfortunately I am not unfamiliar with losing friends and family, but the feeling of confusion and disbelief is always the same. “What happened?!” “Hell, he was younger than me!” “This has to be a joke.” Then I started running the scenarios in my head, with drunk driving being the first and foremost scenario. I contacted Yvette, a mutual friend who I know he was close with and the news was even more of a shock; he had taken his own life.
This is still hard for me to wrap my head around as he was always so full of life and fun! He was the life of the party, always!
I met Jerome during a job interview at a daycare. I was 22 and looking for a better job than working at a gas station while I finished up Junior College and he was 18, right out of High School. We interviewed the same day, hired at the same time and started work the same day. We were two of three guys that worked in the school age daycare system. The third, Jason, worked with teenagers but came to the K-5th grade daycare where Jerome and I worked, to obtain more hours. The three of us became pretty close for a couple of years, working together every day, having lunch together, etc. After a couple of years they left for greener pastures while I stayed.
Jerome was a dancer. I will always remember him dancing to music in the daycare while we decorated and made the room ready for events, holidays, seasons, etc. He used to hold dance with the kids, trying to teach them how to dance. When he left he went to the Los Angeles area with the hopes of being a professional dancer, he said he even had some jobs in music video’s already lined up.
It didn’t seem like too much later, maybe a year, when I saw him back in town in a bar. We were both drunk and had a little bit of a conversation of which I don’t remember much, but I do remember he avoided the subject of why he was back in town. At this point I was going back to college and became a hermit, I really didn’t see Jerome around after that. When I did see him it would be during the occasional bar run to blow off some school steam, or to celebrate graduation, or just random hang out nights with friends after that. When I saw him he was always drunk and he had made it clear he was there to party and not catch up with old friends. We had officially drifted apart.
Though when we did see each other there was always a smile and a quick how have you been.
In the conversation I had with Yvette on Friday night she told me that Jerome’s dad had died last year and he had been battling depression and an alcohol problem. The alcohol problem was well known, but I hadn’t known about his dad or the depression. I wish I had. I wish we had not have grown apart and maybe I could have been there for him. I’m sure a lot of people are having similar thoughts right now. Our lives took different paths though; I decided to go back to school, get a career and try and have a stable life. Jerome, like other friends a grew apart from, became the life of the party.
I’ll miss my friend Jerome. I’ll miss seeing him on the dance floor with the girls, I’ll miss running in to him and getting that famous Jerome smile.
I’ll always see him in my mind dancing. If there is a heaven, I hope he is there and teaching the angels how to dance.
Good bye my friend.