Thursday, September 28, 2017

My First Death

I remember the first time I knew there was death in the world.  

I was in kindergarten at St. Hedwig's, a parochial school on the near northwest side of Chicago, an area that they now call Bucktown.  

One of my friends and his mom were hit and run over by a drunken driver while standing waiting for a bus on Milwaukee Avenue across the street from the Congress Theater.  

We didn't know what happened to him until a couple of days later when the nuns took the whole class to the church to see him one last time.  

There were two open caskets.  His mom was in one, and Jimmy was in the other.  He was dressed all in white and his hands were holding a white flower to his chest.  The sisters told us that he was in Heaven and that we would see him again when we got there, but still that couldn't keep me from grieving for him, wondering about his last moments, his fear.  

It's 65 years later, and I still think about Jimmy and his mom.  

Sometimes, I see him standing on the corner with her across the street from the Congress Theater waiting for the bus, not knowing a car was going to come and kill him.  He's talking to her about school that day, and how he ran around the play lot with me and two other boys.  She smiles and tells him it's good to have friends.

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