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Brother From Another Mother

David was that type of friend that if I did not see him for 15 years, when we did meet, we just picked up exactly where we left off.
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November 3, 2021

I met David Eichel in fifth grade. He was one of my oldest and dearest friends. David died this year. Some might say I lost my friend. But no, I did not lose him. He is as much with me now as he ever was. 

First a heart attack, diagnosed with lung cancer and emphysema and given only four to eight months to live, David didn’t die when he was supposed to but instead spent the next four years in hospice smoking Marlboros and playing online poker. When I’d visit him, we spoke about everything from our fifth-grade teacher to whether there was or was not a God. I said there was. He said he wasn’t sure. David was Jewish and my bar mitzvah might have been the last time he ever stepped foot inside a shul. 

David was that type of friend that if I did not see him for 15 years, when we did meet, we just picked up exactly where we left off. I think most of us have a few of those kinds of friends. Both of us were only children and both of us had tense childhoods. David was my brother from a different mother. 

There is no relationship quite like the ones from your childhood. They know you in a way that nobody else does. For about six years, I spent seven hours a day, five days a week with David in school or bolting from it. And many more hours playing together on weekends. Sometimes we rode bikes and sometimes we pitched nickels.  

There is no relationship quite like the ones from your childhood. They know you in a way that nobody else does.

Long before doctors and parents dosed their depressed or hyper kids, David and I dosed each other with a deep friendship. Growing up, when I felt down—and there were lots of those times—after hanging out with him, I always felt better. Even when he was dying of cancer, just watching him puff away and enjoying his Marlboros somehow lifted my spirits. 

When I went to visit him and, if he felt okay, we would grab lunch and then take a short drive while listening to some of his favorites like Joni Mitchell. Amazingly he could sing the lyrics to songs he had not heard in 40 years. Good friends can just sit together and say nothing. The safety of the friendship does it all. 

For his first two years in hospice, I would visit him around once a month. Then one day, for reasons I still can’t figure out, I just stopped going and calling. After a bit of time wondering where I was, he would call me. Guilty me, I would apologize for not visiting or calling more. And I meant it when I said I was sorry. David always, and I mean always, let me off the hook. No guilt, no shaming, always ending the call by telling me he loved me and when I had time, I should stop by. I made it back only once more. 

The last time I went to see David, he told me he was going to marry his hospice nurse so she could get her green card and stay in the country. This turned out to be a God shot if I ever saw one. What happened was, after taking care of him for a while, she seemed to fall for the guy. I was told she loved him. It’s true what they say: you never know where you might find love. She was the last person to sit with him when he closed his eyes. She even bought herself a space next to him for after she passes. 

It was a few weeks after his death that the mother of his only child called to give me the news. I wasn’t shocked. I expected him to die four years earlier. I am happy to hear that in his final days, he was well taken care of and loved. To some degree, knowing that relieved some of my guilt for not paying him more attention. When the road gets narrow, we all deserve to be taken care of. Perhaps as he got closer to his final days and became more helpless and childlike, his wife was able to see in him what I and many others were attracted to. That David was just one hell of a good kid. Shalom, my friend.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

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