One of the inevitable events that occurs in our lives as we grow older is that we lose old friends. Some wander along different paths as we find our own way through our lives. Some makes mistakes that cannot be forgiven and fall by the wayside. But others, the losses that hurt the most and leave empty spaces in our hearts, are those old friends who fall.
When I was a kid my family moved to Marion Street in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. The first friend I made in the new neighborhood was David Faucette. He was a misfit. I say that with affection. He got me into trouble plenty of times (and I like to think I returned the favor at least a few times). But I never once doubted that the fun times were worth it. David had that effect on a lot of people.
As often happens with childhood friends, David and I went our separate ways when my mother and I left the neighborhood. Our paths would often cross as we grew older, and I believe we always had a mutual affection. I was always glad to see him and I believe he returned the sentiment.
For the most part I finally lost touch with David around the time I was married in 1998. Then I drove a tractor-trailer from 1999 to 2007. In that time I saw David only once. As my wife and I were sitting in the car about to go to the store one day, a man in a pickup truck pulled up and started talking to us. I didn’t recognize David Faucette, and I always felt that I owed him a heartfelt apology. Now that’s impossible.
David was found dead in his apartment earlier this week.
There’s not much I can say about David Faucette by way of an epitaph. The David I remember so strongly in my mind is the boy who talked me into jumping ramps on an ill-equipped 3-speed bicycle. I remember the boy who talked me into crawling under trains (sometimes moving ones) to get to a concrete plant to play on the mounds of sand. I remember the boy whom I would walk with through the woods behind our neighborhood to go to a convenience store a mile away for comic books and brain-freezing Slurpees. I remember the boy I had fist-fights with but never held grudges. I remember the boy with whom I snuck off one afternoon to walk a mile to a downtown movie theater to watch “Jaws” – a movie my parents had forbidden me from seeing.
As we grew older, I remember careening around in the mud with a young man in his first car – a red Opel his father had given David. Man, if Mr. Faucette had known what we put that car through. I remember zipping around town with David in both of his souped-up Ford Mustangs, dodging the police who definitely kept an eye on David Faucette.
To some of you, David Faucette may have sounded like a whole lot of trouble. Maybe he was. But that’s one of the things his friends always found endearing. He was the misfit that we always wanted to be. The imp with the easy smile and a twinkle in his eye. I have plenty of David-related stories. I imagine everyone who knew him does.
I can’t say what David’s life was in the years I lost touch with him. From what I understand, some things went badly for him. He lost a house and suffered through a failed marriage. We are alike in that regard. But whereas I found my salvation in the arms of an angel, David apparently did not.
I’m not sure how David Faucette died. I’ve heard a number of differing stories. One is that he was suicidal. Others say he overdosed insulin (he was diabetic), and passed out, cracking his head as he fell. In the end, the “how” doesn’t matter unless one is looking to assign blame. That’s not productive. All that really matters is that John David Faucette is dead.
David was preceded in death by two of his older brothers, Clark and Wesley. I considered them both to be my friends, as well. What a stunning tragedy it seems to me that three of the four brothers are dead. Oddly enough, they were the three I had the most in common with.
I’ll always regret that I lost touch with David. It’s that self-important arrogance that makes us want to believe that maybe our presence would have made a difference, even as we know it probably wouldn’t have. All I’ll really carry with me from here is that now that David Faucette is gone I feel like I’ve lost some part of my childhood. I’ve said this about other people who have passed on, but I’ve never felt it more strongly than I do today. When I look up at the stars at night, I’ll imagine that one of them is David Faucette looking down upon us with a bemused smile. I imagine if one of them is David, it will be the one with the mischievous twinkle. If I look up and see him there among the other shining stars, I’ll just smile and wave.
Farewell, my old friend. I hope your journey is an adventure. Save me a seat on the passenger side. If I make it to Heaven, we’ll find a way to go four-wheeling in the mud up there in an inappropriate vehicle. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to believe that God has a special place in His heart for the misfits.