People react to death in different ways. People react to the deaths of different people in different ways. When my Grandma Helen passed away on October 22nd, 2008 I heard from an email early that morning from my godfather, my Uncle Mark. Following that email, coming only five days after my 20th birthday, I collapsed on my bed. For minutes I just lay there, frozen. Then the tears came. Although I knew my grandma had a very rewarding long life of 84 years, and she had been battling lunch cancer for the prior year, I broke into hysterics. Although we were 3,000 miles away for most of my life, I loved my Grandma Helen.
Helen Lawler was the icon of fair. She made each of her nine grandchildren always feel loved. While there is a lot I did not know about my grandmother, there is a lot I emotionally invested in her. She was love, fairness, equality. She was a rock of stability that I could always talk to. Her meals, some of my cherished childhood meals, instantly bring warmth into my heart. It is understandable that I reacted so dramatically. I did not speak to my parents for most of the day, ignoring the bulk of their calls until the evening when I could finally stand. Some might say that I was overly dramatic, but I have always been a very emotional person. Never getting a chance to call her, in the hospital, to thank her for my birthday gift haunted me for months.
I have received emails from Jesuit High School, since graduating, of classmates and peers who have passed away. The same can be said of RPI, from people I have never heard of to a great guy I meet casually last summer. All of the tragic deaths that have been connected to me of peers up until this point were accidents. Taken before their time, these situations were out of their control. It always hits me when someone my age passes. It's unexpected, it's before they're ready, and it just hits you like an unexpected wave of ocean water in the face of the warm sun.
I never lost a close friend.
Daniel Riley Fujimoto left this world a few days ago. Not to be disrespectful, or demean his life, but the title of this post, for those who knew me in and him in middle school is representative of our friendship. I met Fuji in sixth grade band class. He is one of the few male flutists that I have ever known personally. Fuji became one of my best friends in middle school and the early part of high school; to this day, I’m not sure how. I was awkward, he was at first timid, but somehow conversation started. There is a lot I could say about Fuji. The memories go on and on, but throughout all of them he brought so much life into the world. From the ramble book to band conversations, talking constantly through classes, making fun of Ms. Russo, and all the endless phone conversations, Fuji always brought a smile to my face. I have always had a very dark side to me, and in eighth grade it started to flare up again. Fuji was there for me. I cannot count the number of phone calls between our houses when he offered support.
I remember when I had a huge crush on Fuji in eighth grade, before he came out, and realize now, that who wouldn’t love him? Fuji was life, he was joy, he was unbounded ridiculousness. The love he had for others was endless, as was his bitter wit.
I regret not being as close with Fuji in recent years, even before his death. I always knew he had a dark side that was always one of the things that bonded us. He and I copiloted our endless roller coaster of emotions, plunging down farther each turn only to reach for that next blissful uptake. He was always an amazing friend, keeping tabs with me even in college. A party at his place for 4th of July one college summer made me think of bittersweet past days. I can’t coherently say how much Fuji meant to me, having not been coherent for some of these last few days.
I will always remember “squid” as silly as it is to have a dear memory about a friend conditioning you into being voice trained.
I will always remember you Fuji.
If you had asked me seven years ago, who would have gone first, I would have told you it was me. He might have too. I always hoped that light within him that shone so bright could push back the darkness.
I will always remember you Fuji. Always.