This article is part of a series of personal essays that explore death and disease from an outsider’s perspective. Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
I met Eddie during what my wife and I affectionately call my first senior year of college. Before we got married, she and I spent a year studying abroad in Asia. Because I’m a master of planning and foresight, I was completely unaware that the University of Virginia would accept precisely zero transfer credits from my school in Thailand, so it would take a fifth year for me to finish my degree.
I hadn’t made any living arrangements for my fifth year, so the university randomly assigned me three total strangers as roommates in an on-campus apartment. One was the progeny of Austrian Olympic athletes. Another was a metrosexual trailblazer.
Then there was sweet, sweet Eddie, who was mightily afflicted with Crohn’s disease.
He and I were to share a bathroom, and on day one, moments after introductory handshakes, Eddie made it known that his bathroom usage was frequent and time consumptive because his bowels were chronically inflamed.
I’d never even heard of Crohn’s, so I’ll admit that the prospect of sharing a toilet with him was unsettling, but the only alternative was to try and split the second bathroom with the Olympic spawn – who was partial to morning sex with his girlfriend in the shower – and a guy who had more hair products than we had counter space. So Eddie and I were stuck with one another.
The thing about Eddie, though, was that he was the sweetest guy imaginable, and sharing anything with him, bathroom or otherwise, was a privilege. He was so easy-going, so fun, so generous. If you needed a ride, he was your man. Whenever I was heartsick for my beloved, who was finishing school across the country, he was always there to make me laugh. Like that one time he came home from the mall with a framed pencil portrait of Mike Tyson and hung it up in our living room for all to enjoy. Or the times he would perform impromptu renditions of obscene hip-hop songs for our delight.
And he was loyal to a fault.
One weekend, a childhood friend of Eddie’s slept over. In the morning, I discovered the guy had inexplicably used my toothbrush. When I notified Eddie, he stalked out of the room to find his friend at the dining hall. He came back an hour later, bloody and beaten, with his similarly abused friend and a brand-new toothbrush in tow. Eddie was just that kind of a guy. He’d fight tooth and nail for your dental hygiene.
Crohn’s seemed to spell doom for his love life.
Eddie was a tenderhearted soul and fell passionately in love with a different girl every month. She’d usually let him take her out a couple of times, but once the unfortunate nature of his illness became apparent, she’d excuse herself from any further romance.
He never held it against them.
Eddie’s dating game was like an endless Merry-Go-Round of emotions. His tenacity was admirable, but the size of his heart was simply amazing.
After that year, I moved out of the apartment to live with my then-girlfriend, now-wife. Eddie helped me pack up and we swore to one another that we’d stay in touch. We promised to call and email and comment on one another’s Twitter posts. But as often happens, out of sight, out of mind.
Even though we lost touch, I thought of him often. I’d tell most everyone about the roommate who’d once gotten into fisticuffs over my toothbrush. We’d laugh, but it never occurred to me to investigate Eddie’s whereabouts any further until I realized one day that I hadn’t seen him post anything online in quite some time.
A quick Google search brought up an “In Memoriam” Facebook page.
Eddie had passed away from surgical complications while doctors tried to resection his small bowel. He’d suffered from malnutrition all his life, and the surgery was common and generally very safe.
He was just too frail.
There were a lot of posts on that Facebook page about how kind and generous he was, how he was the life of every party. Stories just like mine that seemed to run from his first moments alive to his last. It’s obvious he left a large hole in this world. I only hope someone thought to bring that Mike Tyson drawing to his funeral. Eddie would have loved that.