Monday Mournings: The Death of a Friend

My name is David Cambron Justin and I am 38 years old. I’m originally from Grand Prairie, Texas, a DFW Metroplex suburb, but currently live in Hurst, Texas, yet another suburb in the Metroplex. I work as a service representative for the Evil Galactic Empire. At least, that’s what I call the telecom giant that employs me. When I’m not working, commuting, playing softball or writing, I spend time with my twin daughters and my girlfriend.

DW: Who was the person that died?
DCJ: One of my best friends, Charles William Hass, on January 27, 2001. We were both members of Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Fraternity, although we were never members of the same chapter. He was initiated and served in the Gamma Pi chapter at Purdue University in Indiana, while I was initiated and served in the Epsilon Kappa chapter at Angelo State University and also served in the Delta Sigma chapter at the University of Texas at Arlington, both in Texas. We met when he took a job transfer to the DFW Metroplex.

DW: How old were you at the time?
DCJ: I had just turned 27.

DW: How old was your friend?
DCJ: He was also 27.

DW: Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen?
DCJ: Very sudden. Charles was an industrial engineer at FedEx. He had just transferred to the San Francisco Bay Area two months before his death. According to police reports, Charles was walking out of a convenience store in Oakland, California, with Aaron, a guy he had just started dating. Willie Green, who falsely identified himself as a police officer, attempted to detain them. Aaron asked to see a badge and when Green refused, he went into the store and told them to call police. When Aaron returned, Green, who stood 6’4 and weighed 240 lbs had picked Charles up by his jacket. Charles was 5’9 and weighed 140 lbs. Aaron attacked Green, who then turned and stabbed Aaron in the chest, the knife puncturing his lung. But Aaron stunned Green by hitting him in the head with a bottle and he and Charles escaped. However, unbeknownst to Aaron, while holding Charles in the air, Green stabbed Charles deep in the chest, penetrating his heart. Charles did not survive. Aaron eventually recovered. Willie Green was eventually found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

DW: Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before your friend died?
DCJ: Yes. I had several older relatives pass away, including my grandfather. However, I wasn’t very close to any of them, so the emotional impact was very minimal. Charles’ death was overwhelming to me, as it was to many, many people. He travelled extensively and never met a stranger. No one claimed him as just a ‘friend.’ If you knew him, then he was a great friend or a best friend because he truly and deeply cared about you and always would. Since then, I’ve attended funerals for two more brothers. One died of brain cancer, the other from a motorcycle accident.

DW: Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away when you were grieving?
DCJ: There were many of us, fraternity brothers of Charles, that grieved together. We were all very supportive of each other.

DW: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently with this person?
DCJ: Honestly, no. During the short time I knew Charles, I spent a wonderful amount of time with him at parties, dinners, fraternity conventions, road trips, etc… He was always up for a new adventure and I was lucky enough to be apart of that.

DW: Was he buried or cremated?
DCJ: I believe that he was buried but I don’t know for sure. I was unable to attend his funeral. It was held in Indianapolis, where he was from and where his mother and sister still lived. Those of us in Texas held our own memorial for him based on our fraternal customs. I was honored to give the eulogy.

DW: Did you learn anything about the grieving process that you’d like to share?
DCJ: The thing that I noticed the most was that we all grieved in very different ways. Some of the brothers wanted to grieve privately, while others wanted the company. This was really the first time I truly grieved over the loss of someone close to me, so it was very difficult.

DW: Were any songs played at the memorial that were important to your friend?
DCJ: We didn’t play any music, but we sang our fraternity hymn, which very appropriately contains these words:

I do not know how long ‘twill be, 

Or what the future holds for me. 

But this I know, if I must die, 

I am a brother of K-K-Psi.

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