Is there a specific way we’re supposed to grieve? I don’t believe so.
Until the whole Josh Gordon story broke, I wanted to write this post a day ago – the 10th anniversary of the passing of one of my best friends, Dave (in the pic on the left).
Till now I haven’t shared/revealed much of the stories or identities behind my three close friends who passed in the same yr, but w the anniversary (& my amazement of how quickly time’s flown), I felt now was an appropriate time.
My 3rd yr living in NYC, making crumbs off of an NBA league office salary, I decided to take up an offer from a college friend, to move into an apartment building in manhattan, apt “4L” which we were quick to explain to visitors stood for “4 Losers,” as a group of 4 of us would live together in a cramped space on 34th street, to make ends meet.
My college friend was living there w two of his childhood friends, & needed a 4th to fill a room, so they invited me in. Obviously my three new roomies had a tight bond from growing up, but they all seemed like nice enough guys, so I gave it a whirl.
It didn’t take long for me to bond w Dave. Queens-bred guy, direct & to the point, huge heart, but huge ball-buster. We joked often w him about using an entire bottle of “Dep” gel in his hair, only drinking from red Solo cups, wearing beaten up white t-shirts under everything, & being hairier then your average bear.
And we did everything together outside of our work hours – ordered in from the same Chinese spot across the street every night, watched episodes of “Ali G” on loop, even lined up vacation days to travel a bit. I was fortunate to meet & become close w his amazing girlfriend, who’d become his wife @randiebleichfeld aka “Dolph” as he & the rest of our friends would affectionately refer to her.
Then life went on & got complicated. I moved first to Chicago, then Phx to go work for basketball teams. Nonetheless, Dave & I stayed super close. I attended his & Dolph’s wedding…he was able to “organize” some biz trips to come see me in my new cities. Life was just starting for us, no longer “4L’s” & we were excited for what would come next. Until we could no longer:
I’ll never forget the call, being woken up early morning on a December day by a ring from our mutual friend Mike – another one of Dave’s buddies from growing up. Mike was crying, & all he could say was: “Eric, he loved you man.” What? What was he talking about? It didn’t take long for me to piece two & two together. We had lost Dave, tragically.
Dave would often go to the gym. Not much of a weights guy, he’d stick to the treadmill. But this one early morning, he went, & collapsed, hit his head on the machine, & died shortly after at the hospital, from complications from a heart condition.
We’d come to find out that Dolph was six weeks pregnant at the time, carrying a miracle baby…a piece of Dave that would be like heaven on earth.
Of course I came back to NY for the funeral. Of course I went to the burial, & of course I did all I could to comfort Dolph, & Dave’s close friends & family. I even had bracelets made up that we could all wear in unity, that I still have today on my night stand. But…back to the point of grieving, I was LIVID w myself that it all felt like a dream. That none of it felt real. That I couldn’t cry or grieve or break down the way I WANTED to at the time.
Little did I know that my layers of mental health complications, fear of loss, & extensive trauma had been building up with what I’d witnessed my brother go through for all those years as a child, & that my brain/body were in survival mode. They wouldn’t let me access deep feelings, bc if I had been able to get there, I’d have fallen apart.
Well as many know, I did fall apart finally, after not dealing w all this, some five years after Dave’s passing. And now that I came back from that crash & am starting to feel emotions once again, even if slight, I think about Dave every day, & a bit of me cries & grieves with each memory. And that’s ok. I may grieve his loss slowly like this for a lifetime. But when I look in the eyes of his miracle son, Dylan, in the pic w me on the ice at the Panthers’ game, I know there are also many great times ahead, & many memories to be made that he would be thrilled for me to have with Dolph and his baby boy.