Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's It Like When Children Lose a Friend?

            Chardonites are asking about the impact when a young person loses a dear friend.


          The impact is significant.


          I know.


          I lost my best bud Brian Doyle when I was seven years old.


          Here's the story.


          Brian and I both attended St. Ann School at Coventry and  Cedar in Cleveland Heights.


          Sometime in 1963 we bumped into each other walking home a fair distance east of our elementary school.


 It was not unusual in those days for seven-year-olds to walk a mile or two to get home.


          There were two second grade classes at St. Ann's back then, each with almost 50 kids.


Brian and I were not in the same class but that walk home together with Brian became the highlight of my day that year.


          Brian and I quickly became fast friends.


          Our walks down Stillman Road or Coventry if we were daring became our own road to  Emmaus.


Brian's hopes and dreams. My hopes and dreams.


          We discussed girls, the scary nuns(Sister St. John  terrified us), the foibles of our classmates, and the finer points of blood ball. Blood ball was a ruthless keepaway game played during lunch recess on the asphalt parking lot of our school.


          When our routes home finally diverged, Brian went his way and I went mine, day ended.


          We never went to each other's houses, so our families never knew about this friendship.


          But there was no doubt,  Brian Doyle was my best friend in the world.


He knew me and I knew him.


We both had lots of brothers and sisters and we knew that growing up together at St. Ann's held the promise of great times together, loyal friends through thick and thin.


 The spring of 1964 came along and our thoughts turned to baseball in the schoolyard and outdoor gym class.



          Suddenly, Brian wasn't there.


          Our teacher announced  that Brian Doyle had drowned  visiting a hotel while his family was traveling near Cincinnati.


          My soul mate was gone.


I wanted to tell the teachers, my classmates, and my family that I had lost my alter ego.


          But I was a second grader.


          They didn't have grief counselors for us back then.


          It seemed  that my friendship with Brian was a secret he would take to the grave.


And I would carry this sense of loss with me, privately, forever.


The whole second grade went to the funeral.


I blended in with all the rest.


Anonymously shuffled through the service, quietly, in agony.


          I imagined Brian's fear in his last seconds and shared those moments with him tearfully, he in the arms of Jesus while I plodded along, alone.


 I remember closing my eyes and talking to him again.


          Well, life moves forward, but Brian makes himself known to me on a regular basis, creeping into my consciousness and into my prayers.


          What's the impact on young folks when they lose a friend?




          Especially if that friend is  Brian Doyle.


I cherish those memories.


And I look forward to a reunion in heaven.


That dismissal  bell rings and we're bounding eastward on Stillman, adventures along the way.


A friendship to be fulfilled, together, finally.


  1. Mr. Mayor,That was a very excellent story.And too let you know one of those children fathers lived in your city of Euclid at the time you were Mayor.His name is Bob Parmertor.He lost a find Son.We were Neighbors on 250th. I read your articles every week and I think they are just nice to read.But this one touched me.I guess Brian And Bob our in heaven now.We will be all together someday. Joey Stavanja Friend of TP And Ray S. he would know Ronnie Parmertor

  2. Enjoy your Mon. New Herald columns. Our grandson had a similar experience where his best friend drowned while he and his parents were on vacatin in Mexico. The only difference is that both sets of parents knew of the boys' very special friendship while in grade school in Westlake. Grandson is now a sophomore at Bowling Green and to this day remembers April lst.