Death is something I have become an expert in. The first person I saw dead was my primary school colleague Adrian. The teacher constantly punished him, because he wasn’t quiet like the rest of us. From my foggy memories, I remember a kid who could not sit peacefully for more than a full minute.
Even when he seemed to be sitting quietly in his bench, he would balance his legs under the desk, in a constantly back-and-forth motion. I remember his black uniform, pressed collar and naughty smile. He was like quick silver and we all loved that. Today, he would probably receive treatment for ADHD.
Adrian had a sister and lived in the center of the town, in an area where new blocks (of buildings) were being built. His best friend was Paul, also a colleague of others. Vlad is now living in Denmark, doing incredible things.
After school, the two of them would meet to play. You know the kind of friendship that doesn’t need words? So it was with the two of them. hours after school, they went to the construction area and played. Lots of physical activity because this is how kids play back then (1990s). _
One fatidic day, they decided to play near a bulldozer. They moved around it, then tried to climb it. Paul fell behind it, this being the reason he is alive today. Adrian fell underneath / beneath the (rolls?) of the bulldozer.
They didn’t notice that a man was inside the machine, prepared to operate it. The man didn’t notice the kids either. Paul shouted at Adrian to get out but it was too late. The little boy was crushed in the head area, with death occurring on the spot. I don’t know what happened next, this is all we were told.
I remember coming to school and seeing his empty place. The teacher, sad and solemn at the same time, told us what happened. There was talk about going to his home, to say our goodbye. They were also going to take him by the school, in the way to the cemetery.
My first encounter with death. Who would have thought that we would become such close acquaintances? (never friends)
Even though everyone kept on explaining death to us, I fail to understand the concept. I still have trouble grasping it, after all this time (and so many deaths serving as training).
My teacher asked me if I would write a poem to recite for Adrian. I set it my mother in the dim light of the kitchen and tried to give it my best. I was a kid, 9Y, writing about a kid who died. my mother kept asking me if I was OK.
I actually was. I felt important, like I had the responsibility to Adrian, to come up with something truly amazing. I wasn’t shying away from death, because I didn’t knew it yet.
At school, the kids would talk about Adrian’s head being crushed and how his brain had been scattered all over the place. It is amazing how graphic these details were, despite the innocent age we were. I was assured that Adrian’s face was not disfigured and that his head would be covered up.
Unfortunately, I do not remember the poem I wrote, nor did I keep a physical proof of it. Perhaps it was too painful and I already was trying to protect myself.
I went to school and sent the truck carrying Adrian arrived. It was one of those big green trucks, with an empty platform at the back.
The platform had been covered with a white cloth and there were hundreds of flowers on the side. In the center, there was Adrian in his little coffin, quiet for eternity. The whole school was there to say our final goodbye. the teacher raised / put me up on the platform, in order to recite my poem. I remember standing there, and wishing he would get up and say to everyone it was just a joke. Because, you know, that is the thing with death. You never want to believe it has really occurred. No matter how final it may seem, you still hope for it not to be. It still amazes me how human hope is at its strongest, when put face to face with death.
I do not remember being taken down from the platform, nor the silent march to the cemetery. Perhaps we kids did not even go to the actual funeral. We just returned to classes, unaware of how close our encounter with death really was.
Later on, in that same day, we went to Adrian’s house, for the wake. He actually lived in one of the newly built blocks, in a duplex apartment we all envied. It was a kid’s paradise, to constantly play on those spiral stairs.
Adrian’s parents were trying to keep up appearances but, even with my 9Y old brain, I could tell they were crushed. I am not a parent yet and this makes it impossible for me to determine / ascertain how that would feel. I have lost plenty of dear people and I can state with certainty that each that steals a little piece of you. Perhaps little is not the best word to describe it. Because, the more you loved that person, the bigger that piece is going to be.
I also saw Adrian’s little sister, standing next to the spiral staircase, as if she was waiting for him to come out and play. She seemed lost, uncertain and sad. Can she remember him today or has she created an image of him according / from the things said by her parents ? (I wonder)
The house (ap.) was extremely crowded, with the entire class being there (and a lot of other people coming to pay their respects and honor the memory of Adrian). It was crowded, with very little room to breathe and I remember those feelings of anxiety, coming to the surface upon being pushed close to a new experience. Death may have been a part of life but us, only the only beginning to experience life, we were caught completely unaware of its existence.
We were only children. We didn’t realize that one of us was gone. Well, not at the full extent. During the wake, we ate the food and enjoyed ourselves. The next day, we went back to school and things got back to normal. Adrian’s place was empty for some time, and it took a couple of weeks before Paul came back to school.
Upon seeing him, I realized that he had seen that up close and lived to tell all about it. He had a cloud of sadness above him, keeping mostly to himself. Soon after, he transferred to another school. Who knows? Maybe this was the right thing to do.
So many years have passed since then has passed away in that tragic accident. Yet my memory of him is still embedded in my brain. It was my first encounter with death and it taught me a lot of things. From time to time, I think about his parents. How did they manage to deal with this loss? They say that time heals all, but I do not think this is valid when it comes to that.
If Adrian is looking at me (us) from heaven, I just want to say I will always remember his naughty smile and how full of energy he was. Rest in peace, Adrian!