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The world just lost an amazing soul yesterday.
A kind, loving, creative soul.
A kind, loving, creative soul who suffered what for many would be a mind numbingly debilitating injury many, many years ago, while in the prime of his life.
That is just for some kind of context by the way. In a lot of ways Ffej’s life started that day. By the sheer force of his will and determination. I was going to say that lesser folk would have folded up tent and sulked forlornly away into the nearest corner but I’m sure that would never have been his take on thing so I won’t go there.
Ffej was a year ahead of me at M.C.V.I. That would be McLaughlin Collegiate and Vocational Institute. (Look Ma! I’ve been institutionalized). We shared a few classes. I came to know Ffej more through his rabid love of music. That and the Boy Scouts.
You see, around that time I belonged to the 7th Oshawa Boy Scouts, situated in the “party” room of St Georges Anglican Church. To me Ffej was always vibrant, vital, exuberant and all too alive. When I first joined the 7th, Ffej was the leader of Road Runner patrol. Meep meep! As opposed to lording his long standing tenure over the newness of his new recruits Ffej took us all under his wing. With a devilish smile and a glint in his eye.
Upper deck! Lower deck! Boom coming over!!!
Ffej saw us through it all with humour, compassion and just a little bit of mischief.
He prepped us for our first joint venture up to Camp Samac Haliburton in the best way possible. Save for the snipe hunt. Nothing could ever prepare anyone for their first snipe hunt. The fact that he built it up to almost biblical proportions has faded from my psyche over time. Well, mostly 🙂
I was more than fortunate to reconnect with Ffej several years back via that ubiquitous beast that is Facebook. I found him every bit as humble, humorous and engaging as I remembered him 30 odd years down the line. That’s when I discovered his music. That’s when I rediscovered his art.
Probably the last time I had seen Ffej back in the day was at a party at his folks place after his accident. I was young, as were we all. It was at that party I discovered what had befallen Ffej. I was ill prepared to reconcile my visions of him as a vibrant, athletic young man with the still vibrant young man I saw before me, eternally bound to a wheel char. I stammered and stuttered, really not sure what to say. Really not sure where to look. Ffej, even then, took the lead when he asked if I would be interested in seeing some art he had been working on. He at once set me at ease and, more importantly to me, set my mind at ease.
The one piece of art I remember from that night so long ago was an almost perfectly rendered image of a stubby Labbatt’s Blue bottle. I told him that it looked amazing (which it did). He smiled back at me and said a heartfelt thanks. After that everything fell into place.
The last time I saw Ffej in person was over a year ago when I went to his and Marylin’s place to pick up a piece of his art that I had ordered months before at one of his shows. In the heart of downtown Oshawa no less. When I saw him at the exhibit I saw the public, vibrant side of him. When I saw him and met Marylin at their place when picking up my print I saw the friend of my youth. I saw the welcoming, supporting Road Runner patrol leader. I saw the young man with his whole life ahead of him.
In the end, I guess I just saw my friend.
In my youth I remember railing against people who suddenly became so emotional at the loss of someone they had barely if ever met in person for many, many years. Or had lost touch with. I just couldn’t fathom it.
While Facebook represents much of what I abhor about the medium it did manage to allow Ffej and I to reconnect, regardless how briefly. It has lead me to reconnect with so many friends of my youth that I had lost track of over the years.
You know what my favourite memory of Ffej is? In some ways it really helps me define the amazing person he was. I’m sure it’s just personal, but, that is what this is all about.
If anyone of you have ever been a member of the Boy Scouts you, no doubt realize, they have a patrol of the month award; points awarded for various and sundry good deeds, badges earned and erstwhile accomplishments. Well, one month in particular, Road Runner patrol was the favourite to win that honour, although Sir Frederick Banting patrol was hot on our tail. The members of Road Runner were freaking out, as young men of 13, 14, 15 are want to do.
Ffej, or, should I say, Jeff came up with the totally inspired idea of announcing our names spelled backwards at role call. Being the patrol leader Jeff took the lead.
“Ffej Nosirrom!” he stated bravely.
“Nehpets Yawaneerg,” I pronounced willingly.
The rest of the patrol followed.
I’d love to tell you our Scout leader saw the humour in this but it was not to be. We lost patrol of the month honours but gained one hell of a lot more respect for Ffej.
Rest in peace Jeff. I truly wish I had got to know you again one hell of a lot more than I did. I just always figured there would be time. More fool me.
From one 7th Oshawa to another.
Sleep well my friend. Sleep well.