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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Remembering Chopper

I woke up this morning remembering Chopper's funeral. I suppose I was dreaming about it last night. When I checked in on facebook while I sipped my morning coffee, I saw this post in my Memories section, from where I wrote it years ago on another morning that I awoke with Chopper on my mind. 

His death still haunts me, and  I wasn't even as close to him as some of his other friends were. But I loved him. I loved his attitude, his personality, his style, his charm, and his intellect. I think about the  world we have today, where  people seem to meet people like Chopper with even more aggression than they did back then, and I wonder how he would have fared in today's world of ugliness.

Chopper never felt like he belonged. He hurt. Badly.
I connected with that, because I never felt like I belonged either. I was never really a white kid, and never really fully a Mexican kid. I was told to pretend I was just white. I was told not to check Hispanic on job applications and school forms... I was taught to be ashamed of who I was born to be.

To everyone who has ever told me, "Don't tell people that you are half Mexican." or "Don't let them know you are gay." or "Try to avoid the topic of your past with drug abuse." I say to you, FUCK OFF!

It is exactly that type of judgment and criticism that led that gentle, sweet soul to take his own life before it ever even had a chance to get started. And it is your prejudice and bigotry that fed his insecurity. And mine. 

In memory of a great guy who died entirely too young. RIP my friend. I hope you found peace. 
Amy slunk into homeroom late that morning after missing first period altogether. Her usually perfectly tousled and teased hair was disheveled and matted from the pillow's friction and I was pretty sure she still had on yesterday's clothes. Her eyes were red and puffy and she looked completely lost.
"Chopper's dead."
The words rolled off her tongue so softly that it took a moment to sink in.
I turned my full attention to her, noticing that her shoulders were slumped and face was solemn.
"What? How? Oh my god, Amy, OH MY GOD!"
The finality of what she had just told me was sinking in, and I wanted no part of this knowledge.
Instantly, flashes of Chopper ran through my mind. Chopper and Amy and I were a threesome during summer school. We stuck tight, hiding in Amy's car to smoke our parent's cigarettes and make fun of the kids who were there not because they skipped too much school, but because they just couldn't pass. The three of us were alike. We showed up on test day and aced it. Why bother showing up the rest of the week? And that's the attitude that landed us together that summer with all the kids who hated us for who we were. The outcasts. The strangely dressed, strange acting and hard to understand Others. That was us. We had each other's backs in that crowd of football players and cheerleaders, basketball stars and future wrestling coaches.
We had to, kids like us were open targets.

"Shot himself. This morning. His mom called me. He gave me this last night..."
She shoved her hand my way, which cradled a pewter dragon and wizard, Chopper's favorites.
"He told me he wanted me to have them. But I didn't know...I didn't know..."

The rest of that day was a blur. More information came in about how Chopper died. He picked a beautiful spot by the pond in the park and then blew his brains out, leaving his mutilated corpse there for some poor lady to find on her early morning jog.
I wonder if she still jogs.

I was perpetually grounded in those days, for one thing or another, and never allowed to use the phone, leave my room, have company, or do anything. I left a note on the kitchen table for my parents, asking for permission to go to the funeral, and was surprised that permission was granted.

I'd been to many funerals in my too short life already. Family and friends alike had died in my 16 years, enough that I had a couple of outfits designated for funerals already.
I picked one out and headed off with Amy to say goodbye to a bright, intelligent, and extremely humorous young man.

The funeral was surreal. There was a giant photo of Chopper, propped up in the middle of the funeral home, no one needed to see what was left of our friend, no one. We stared at the larger than life photo and reminisced about the events leading up to this. Chopper's mom was distraught beyond belief and I could hardly bare to look her way. After losing her daughter in a car accident the year before, I couldn't imagine what she must have been going through now. When the minister took the podium to conduct the services, I was relieved, hoping for some words of comfort.
As I pulled myself out of oblivion and focused in on what he was saying, I was mortified.
He told us that our dear friend, her son, would never see the fruits of heaven, and would be eternally burning in hell because he had committed the worst sin of all, suicide. To this, Chopper's mom began to sob hysterically. Someone placed their arms around her to comfort her, but I don't think it was much relief at that moment.
I turned back to the minister, who was by now in full exaltation, speaking with a zealotry I'd never before witnessed. He scared me. He told us that we were all sinners and would suffer the same torturous fate as Chopper if we didn't turn our lives over right this very moment to his Christ and if we didn't go out and save others from burning and suffering like Chopper.
I couldn't get the image of my friend, a good soul, a sweet, kind, loving person being chained in a lava filled, fire engulfed pit and screaming for help.
He was just sad. He was just a sad boy who didn't see any way out. He made a mistake. A very big and final mistake. How can this man stand here and tell us all how horrible and grotesque Chopper was? Did he even know him? Did he know the boy that would stand up for anyone who was being bullied, even if it got his own ass kicked? Did he know the boy who would give his lunch money to homeless guys? Did he know the guy who looked out for everyone else's best interest before his own? I didn't think so. Because if he had known that guy, he would never be able to stand in front of all of us and say these horrible things about our friend, her son, their cousin.

After the thing that they called a service, we got together and took Chopper's ashes to the pond at the park where he ended his life. A fitting place to sprinkle Chopper and set him free. We talked about the good times and remembered Chopper the way he should be remembered and did our very best to eulogize him in a more appropriate way than that which we had just witnessed.

I went home that day angry. Angry at Chopper for dying, angry at god for letting him, angry at that minister for all the things he'd said, angry at everyone who ever made Chopper sad...angry.
I'll never forget Chopper's funeral. I try to remember Chopper's smile and quick wit, but following that always comes the memories of Chopper's funeral. I've stopped being mad at Chopper and all the assholes that gave him a hard time. But I must admit, I'm still a little bit teed-off at that insensitive, arrogant minister who made Chopper's funeral one of the most traumatic parts of Chopper's entire, grotesque and sudden death.
I hope Chopper found some peace in death that he couldn't find in life. I hope Chopper's mom found some peace and comfort somewhere other than that awful man that presided over his funeral, and I hope that man isn't doing funerals for teens who've committed suicide anymore.

1 cookies cracked:

Heather Mae said...

This post makes my heart hurt for you. Not just your friend's death, but the funeral feels like a second death to me. As a Christian and your friend, I am so sorry this happened. I once heard a priest (notoriously the hardest on suicides) say that God gave you life as a gift. And just like any other gift, you don't have to take it. It's between you and the gift-giver, no one else.