For Our Buddy

How a friend taught me what's important in this life

BY: Mike Hayes

 

During my junior year in college, I ran myself ragged. I took a full load of classes, ran the sports department of our college radio station, worked part time at an internship, and attempted to have some kind of social life. I was active in our campus ministries group as well, though that often took a back seat to all the other things I had going on in my life.



I had two roommates that year, Scott and Dave. Scott was a giant, about 6 foot 4 and 200 pounds of solid muscle. He played rugby and spent lots of time at his girlfriend's. Dave was the polar opposite. About 5'7" and maybe 100 pounds, Dave was plagued by diabetes and a heart condition. He had to closely monitor his diet, and he added about six or seven pills to his daily regimen of food as well. Dave never complained about his lot in life; in fact, he was a stand-up comic. The times I spent with him were sheer joy. Sometimes we'd laugh at dinner until the food got cold. Dave performed at the local open-mike nights, and I tried to go to support him as often as I could, but it was difficult to do with all my other commitments.



I was oblivious to most of my roommates' day-to-day activities. I was often on the road with different sports teams, "calling" the action for the radio broadcasts back to our school's fans. It was exciting to be always on the go, yet something seemed to be missing.



The year flew by as I popped a steady diet of Tums to keep up with the stress of job and schoolwork. My grades were mediocre, and my relationships were less than that. I talked little to my family and even less to God, even though I attended Mass weekly at the University Church.



My wake-up call came the next year. I had moved into a new residence hall with other friends. It was in my new suite that I got the call from Dave's new roommate, Joonmo. Dave was headed to the hospital. "Something with his heart." It didn't look good.



"Dave is dying?" I thought. "That can't be! He's only 20 years old!" Stunned, I raced to the hospital.



The doctors gave Dave one chance of surviving and that was to have an operation to put a defibrillator on his heart. The device would send an electric charge to his heart if it started to beat too fast or too slow, and the charge would correct the problem. Dave mulled it over and decided it was worth the risk.



My new roommates and I, along with Scott's and Dave's new roommates, spent a lot of time together that week.  We talked about important things, how life is precious, how we can lose it so quickly without even thinking about it. We all knew that Dave had some health problems but never thought that his life could ever be in serious jeopardy.


Yet now it was.



I thought about all those comedy nights I had missed, all those times I had been too busy to just sit and talk with Dave, all the things I had missed finding out about him. He was a great guy, I knew that, but I had let myself miss out on his life even though it was being lived right in front of me.



And how I could never get that back if he died. 

The group of us, Dave's old and new friends, forged a special bond during those many visits to the hospital. Together we encouraged Dave in his fight to live. We told him how much we were pulling for him and how he had to get better so he could make out with the cute nurse who was on his corridor. He thought that was funny and promised to try his best.

It was clear he was touched by the devotion of his friends. During the time that Dave started prepping for the surgery until it was over, we called, we visited, we ate together, and we prayed together. We talked about stuff that really mattered. Work was put on the back burner, and all were told to "take a walk" when they asked if I could accomplish those extra tasks I used to do during my workaholic junior year.

I realized what I had been missing. I had been so self-absorbed that nobody else mattered to me but me. Who did I need? Not Dave, not anyone...not even God.

But now I did need God. I needed him to heal Dave. I needed God to know that I was thankful for all the great things he had enabled me to do, but which I had wasted all on myself. And now I wanted a second chance.

I was a better person when I graduated later that year. I was better for the friendships I had made with these men and women who had banded together to support their friend in his time of need. I remember the thrill when I heard Dave's name read at the ceremony and I watched him walk up the steps and receive his diploma. I never let him become so distant from me again. During the last five years of Dave's life, I attended his block party every year, and there wasn't a Super Bowl that I didn't watch in his basement.

Dave died December 8, 1995. He was only 25. I thank God for those last five years.

Every year, I take December 8 off from work. I use that day to tell those around me how much I love them and how my life would be worse if it wasn't for their presence. There have been times that all of the roommates have gotten together to catch up with each other on this day and on other days as well. I'm glad that Dave taught me the lesson of loving all the people that God puts in my life.

And I'm glad God let me tell Dave that I love him too.

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