There may be no more important part to a funeral or memorial service--or to all the remembrances we make for our loved ones--than a eulogy. Many eulogies are written about a person who has moved on from this life. And others, like the one below by Alex Clermont, move from being about that person to being written to that person. Of special note in this eulogy is how it encapsulates a hard life, a hard death and does this with respect, caring, and honest, brotherly love.
About ten years ago, Josely and I were wasting an hour playing video games. This happened more often then than I liked to admit, but I had a lot of free time. At 21, I had quit college and my job. While pursuing a doomed dream, I decided to read some books, write a little, and think a lot about the world I lived in. During those months, my brother and I spent a lot of time together, and I was constantly asking him questions about his life.
I had slowly become aware of the fact that Josely was dying. I was never told directly, but instead learned through the osmosis of family rumors until one day it was common knowledge that Josely's time on earth had an expiration date that was far closer than mine. I wanted to write stories, and I knew that Josely’s strange life was full of interesting, funny, and sometimes sad bits and pieces that I thought I could fit into whatever little thing I was putting together.
That day we were playing video games, he had told me a few stories. He told me about the first time he had sex; why he picked up amateur boxing – to try to get close to my father (his step-father). He told me, in detail, what it was like to go through the jail system. He also told me about the first time he took drugs.
Shaking his head in regret, he described himself as a kid recklessly willing to try anything new. All it took for him to light a pipe and bring it to his mouth was for the girl he was dating to tell him “Just smoke this.” From that point on, his life was no longer his.
Household items started to go missing, and my parents began putting locks on doors and cabinets. When I was 13, he conned me out of the $100 my godfather gave me for Christmas. I borrowed a video game system from a friend and couldn't explain a week later why it was gone. “My brother said he left it at his friend's house. I'll have it back next week.” Next week never came, and I began to realize that the brother I looked up to as a child had become more than just the black sheep of the family.
By 21, though, I had gotten over that realization. I asked questions not because I wanted answers, but because I wanted information and because one day the brother whom I loved very much would no longer be able to tell me anything.
I was conscious of this as he told me how the end of his life began. When he was done, he cursed the woman's name who changed his life, then he looked me in the eyes with a quietness that was rare for him. He told me to never, ever do what he did.
We continued playing the video game. He eventually won and laughed about it afterward. Then he asked, “Why you asking me so many questions? I feel like I’m being interviewed, or something.” I told him why, and he said, “Oh, so, you gonna write a book about me?”
I said, “Probably not. But I might use parts of your life in a book.”
He said, “Well, I’ll tell you one thing about me.”
I paused the game that we had started playing again and listened.
He said: “I never felt right in this world. I never felt like I fit in, you know—that I belonged here." He shook his head and continued, “This just ain't my world.”
In an instant, Josely had explained to me what drove him. For many of us, the decisions Josely made in life just didn’t make sense. They were extreme, but for him they were the only ways he knew to search for something that would make him feel whole, something that would take him away from the pain of isolation that this world seems to have such an abundance of.
Perhaps he was looking for love, or just a sense of belonging to something greater. Whatever it was, that search led him into several different directions. On November 21st of this year that search ended.
Although he certainly went about it in a dangerous way, Josely’s search wasn't that different from the one we all share. We all want to be loved. We all want acceptance, and we all want to feel like we belong to a family, and a world, that we believe cares about us. It is peace that we all want.
Today we are saying goodbye to my brother, who has finally found that peace. A brother who taught me not to be scared of my emotions, to be confident in who I am, and helped me understand that the world is bigger than I thought.
Joesly, you will be missed, and, as you always were, you will be loved.
Text, copyright Alex Clermont, all rights reserved.
Alex Clermont is a blogger and creative writer from New York City. He has a BA in English creative writing from Hunter College has been an English teacher for the past several years. He has been a contributor to Beyond Race magazine about independent artists and musicians and was managing editor of Plateau, a quarterly print magazine focused on independent musicians. His publication credits include: Every Second Sunday – an international anthology. His story "Catching Butterflies" appeared in the 2011 Anthology Out of Place, and his story "Standby" is in the online literary magazine Scholars and Rogues. Alex's first book is now available. Titled Eating Kimchi, Nodding Politely, it is a collection of Narratives about his time as an English teacher in South Korea. For more information or to purchase the book, see AlexClermontWrites.com