I use writing as a tool to get things out of my head – ideas, conjecture, stories and memories. I can’t seem to move on from one of these things rattling around in my brain until I set it down on paper. Sometimes it’s just drivel, sometimes it’s quite beautiful – at least to me. I’ve been having a rough couple of days and I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to get this out there. But lack of sleep and the flashing of the incident keep bothering me. I’m hoping this will help me to get better, to recover and move on. This is selfish, I understand, but I need to be me again and I’m impatient.
My co-worker and friend Andre was a French Canadian. You could hear the accent especially when you would talk to him for a while. It was just precious the way he would say “pardon” or even “yes”. He would call our mutual friend Guy “Gi” and myself he would call “Jamie”.
Every morning at work he would stop by my desk and give me an update on his wife Shirley’s progress and I would listen patiently and intently to what he had to say. There wasn’t much hope i could convey to him cancer is not an easy way to die.His wife died recently, he loved her he really did. She suffered for a long time – a losing battle with cancer. I asked him once – does she know you love her? “Yes” he said with his short accented voice – “that’s all that matters Andre, that’s all that she ever wanted – love” and he would smile his little smile and nod at me.
After her passing he wasn’t the same, grief affects us all differently and for him there was something missing now. There were some difficulties with Shirley’s children too, but nothing I have details about. People at the office took extra steps to look after him – Tina and Rhonda stopped by regularly, Guy took him to lunch twice a week, I was taking him to dinner and trying to get him engaged in other things, Dan helped him get his IT stuff up and running at his new apartment. And we all inquired with him how he was, if there was anything we could do to help him.
I’m a Mac and Andre had a Mac he couldn’t really understand so he asked me to come over and help him with it. I agreed. We met on a Sunday and I helped him with some small items that to me seem perfectly normal and he was truly appreciative. He offered me a beer, which I declined, and then some scotch, which I also declined… he assured me “It’s really quite good scotch you would like it”. I explained to him that I’m a recovered alcoholic and don’t drink any more. “Oh, good for you” he said and smiled his smile.
We had dinner a few nights later when I came back to finish a task on his iMac. He would told these stories, always with the stories, about his reckless youth and his adventures.
He talked how he built an engine with the help of popular mechanics magazine and installed it in a small boat – his father advised him he was none too smart as the engine was too big for the boat, but he reinforced the bottom and sure enough he was zipping about the lake at speeds the boat wasn’t designed for. Weeks went by and he would spend time in his boat, tinkering with this or that and he loved it. The bottom reinforcement gave way one time and the boat flipped over head to tail, he went flying into the air. The boat was gone, but he says he felt just fine a little more embarrassed than anything.
His father found him and said “we can’t take you to your mother looking like this” and took him off to the hospital a good 30 minutes away. The nurse too said “we can’t have your mother see you like this”, “Pardon” Andre asked; she brought him a mirror and he was bruised and bloody head to toe. He says he smiled, and I don’t doubt it.
His mother asked for weeks while he recovered what had happened, but he and his father decided it was best she didn’t know of his foolishness.
He talked of working on an engine for a plane, a ‘floater’ I think he called it. That could land on water or land. He started by observing the regular repair guy they sent and just loved helping to tinker with it.
His maintenance of this thing was soon the marvel of the regular guy – who asked Andre to explain what he did at first. Andre went into find detail about timing and torquing until he was satisfied it was as good as it could be. In the beginning the mechanic would look over Andre’s work to ensure he had done it – but after a while he would just ask “did you do what you always do?” “Yes” Andre would answer – and the pilot or mechanic would know the plane was worthy of flight.
He says during a large forest fire they stole the plane to do some fire fighting, using a big ol’ bucket type mechanism they scooped up water from the lake and flew to where the fire was creeping up on a family home. They doused the fire out and saved the farm there. “Not enough” he told me, “but to that one family, they were safe”. He had some pride there, some sense of accomplishment of something that had happened so long ago.
I had just had dinner with him Wednesday night and was listening to him tell tales about when he worked as a server on a train – he could paint a picture of himself as a young daring man without a care in the world.
An older woman came into the dining car, he seated her and asked her “what can I bring you madam?”
“a pot of black” she said
Andre wasn’t sure what a ‘pot of black’ was, but ever the professional he nodded and went back into the kitchen to inquire with others what it might be. None knew what she might be referring to so Andre returned to ask for clarification.
“Pardon”, he said, “I do not know what a ‘pot of black’ is, can you be more specific?”
She got all stiff necked and sat straighter, “tea young man, tea” she said quite haughtily. “Bring me three biscuits as well, no sugar on them just the biscuits” she said.
Having gotten off on the wrong foot Andre decided he would give her three extra biscuits to make up for his previous ignorance. He brought her the tea and biscuits with a smile that conveyed his regret.
She would have none of it, “do you think I am a pig?”
“you must think I am a pig”
“do I look like I need a trough to eat? I asked you for three cookies – take this away and bring me just what I asked for”
Andre took the plate back to the kitchen, cut up the cookies into halves and returned with just three halves.
“This is not what I asked for” she said
“look out the window” Andre said
“look out the window, can you fly?” Andre asked
“no I cannot fly” she stated
“one more comment and I will toss you out the window and you’d better learn to fly” he said and walked away.
Well it turns out she was an inspector with the train and was doing an inspection so of course he was reported for his treatment of her. Defiant and sure of himself he told his boss “Did she tell you what I said?” the boss nodded and repeated what Andre had told her.
“I meant it, if I see her again she had better learn to fly”
I could see his smile in the memory the little sass that he gave the customers or his boss back when necessary. He was back in the moment – it was nice to listen to him.
He also shared about how he established a good working relationship with Lloyd’s of London. How the experts there came to respect his consistency and research. A man there named, Mr. Crook, audited Andre’s files once and they all were consistently the same – he was meticulous and detailed for every customer he had.
He talked about his biggest client now – how she amazed him with her knowledge and expertise. She would contact Andre and say she needed coverage for a piece that was 2.5 million and being transferred from India or something and he would get it done, knowing her the way Mr. Crook or the mechanic from the plane knew Andre. He expressed how truly amazing she was.
He was so sweet, really he was – he cared so much about his family and friends.
Thursday at work he left early, he wasn’t feeling well. He called shortly after to let us know he left his satchel and asked if someone would bring it to him after work. I volunteered.
I arrived at his apartment and knocked. No one answered. Andre wears hearing aids and sometimes you’d have to repeat yourself to him. I called his cell phone, no answer. I knocked again. I called again. I peaked over the patio wall to see if he was smoking. He was not there. I tried the door knob and it opened.
I went in calling his name. I called a few times. I looked in the kitchen and the bathroom for him and then saw him lying on his bed. I had a sense of dread. I called his name louder. I pushed on his arm and called again. He was cold to the touch.
I pulled on his arm to get him to wake up. I wanted him to wake up. The arm was stiff and wouldn’t come forward from it’s bent position it made a cracking noise as I pulled on it.
I called a co-worker, Guy, “I think he’s dead” I said. “What?” Guy asked. “Andre, I think he’s dead I think he’s gone. He’s cold to the touch and wont wake up.” Guy asked if I had called 911, I had not. I hung up on guy and dialed 911 and then a minute later wondered why no one answered and saw I forgot to press the green button to activate the call.
“911, what’s your emergency” she asked
“My name is Jamez Prudlick and I think my friend is dead” I explained
“Can you repeat that sir?” so I did
“What is the address you are calling from sir” I provided. She asked how I found him, what my relationship was to him, when the last anyone heard from him. I answered as best I knew.
She transferred me to the fire department – I had to repeat some of what I had already said. That lady advised me I needed to start CPR. She asked me if I knew how to do that – I told her it had been many years since I was trained but I think I could do it. I remembered “Staying Alive” and repetition.
She said we had to get him off the bed and onto a flat hard surface. She told me I had to move him. I was so afraid I would hurt him if I moved him and I told her so. “What if I drop him? What if I hurt him more?” She told me to place the pillows on the ground right by the bed so that I could move him without fear of dropping him, so I did.
I put the phone down to lift him and I heard something from it so I had to pick it up again, “put me on speaker sir so you can still hear me” which had never occurred to me. So I did. I placed an arm under Andre’s legs and one under his neck and lifted him. He was still and didn’t move, his entire body was cold. I lowered him to the ground and onto the pillows with maybe a little thump.
“Now remove the pillows sir, he has to be flat on a hard surface” I did. “now sir lace your hand and place in the middle of his chest and do compressions.” I started – I heard a crack and I was so scared that I hurt him. “count, let me hear you count as you do compressions sir.” I started counting with each push into his chest. “1, 2, 3, 4 (in my head staying alive, staying alive), 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11… ” start over again at 10, just go to ten and start over”
I could hear the air being pushed out through his mouth or nose it was a dry and crackling noise that gave me chills. There wasn’t a counter noise for anything going back in. His arm was still stuck in it’s bent shape, his leg too which had been hanging over the bed when I found him.
I just kept compressions on his chest, the lady told me “they are one minute out sir, keep going” or “they just pulled into the complex sir and are on their way” and I heard a knock on the door “COME IN” I yelled and part of me wondered why they knocked at all and I was mad because I needed them to help.
They came into the room and told me to step away. They didn’t approach him but noted that he was blueish in complexion and said something about his neck. Then one of them moved to take his pulse and another guy said I should leave the room.
A police officer asked me questions and asked for my ID. I answered as best I could. I tried to call my bosses who I knew were at an important dinner. I tried to call my sponsor and my best friends who didn’t answer. I had been standing for a while and felt numb and I didn’t know what to do. My friend Guy called and I explained the EMT/police were present and he said he was almost there.
They asked me questions about his family, where they were if I had their numbers, how I knew Andre, why was I there, when was the last time anyone heard from him and all that. I couldn’t get his password on his computer to work, I wasn’t doing ok, I was typing it in wrong. I wanted them to see his brothers phone number and maybe his daughters on the Facetime I had helped Andre set up to work there as well as on his phone and iPad.
Guy showed up but they wouldn’t let him in. They asked him similar questions I hear.
They excused me and offered to get me counseling or someone to talk to. Guy and I left after talking for a while.
I cried in my car. I texted my sponsor and best friend. My sponsor called me and I explained what happened and he made me feel a little better.
At home I cried hard, sobbing and freaked out … I kept remembering the feel of his skin the sound of his arm and chest… I had difficulty falling asleep and then woke at 2ish, I tried to go back to bed with no success and then got up and started to reflect.
I talked to my friends Dan and Taylor and they cried. I know my friend Guy cried Big strong men who loved this little French Canadian man. Such big hearts, such good people
I went to work to do something necessary things and then left around 9 (about three hours of work) I came home and cried a lot, I took a little nap (i passed out in my chair) and woke up to hear a message from my boss RBU that they were going to say a few words at 230, he didn’t ask me to come but I knew I should go.
We met outside at 2:30 and RBU said some prayers and some people shared some memories. I couldn’t talk about it, I don’t like to cry in front of people I know or people I don’t know and I know most of those people.
I couldn’t stay at the office, I left again and came home. Cried some more and was in bed by 8:30. I slept most of the night and awoke with the same sadness, the same macabre memories and senses.
I have a scheduled therapy session today that was scheduled before this happened – he’s a trauma specialist and will likely help me through this today. I honestly feel a lot better already just getting this all down.
Andre was a sweet man. He was so funny and good hearted and just comfortable to be around. He complimented me too much – he said he told RBU “don’t let Jamie leave he is marvelous”.
I have fond memories of him which I think, over time, will eclipse the sad memories of him. I also have some of the same friends – we’ll get through this together and I hope we all carry a part of Andre with us for always.
I am not a believer in life after death – it doesn’t sit well with me. Andre is an example of someone who live his life fully – with adventure, love and joy. Any of us would be lucky to have that be our legacy and need nothing further.
Bon Voyage, Andre