As all know, it’s customary for a new father to present a new mother with flowers (as I did with Eric’s three sisters, Kandis, Sydney and Kristin). However, when Eric was born, I brought an arrangement of plants to the hospital. Quickly outgrowing their original container, those plants were transplanted, and 20 years later, they flourish; a lasting tribute to Eric.
From a very young age, Eric excelled in both soccer and hockey. Effective because of his compact size and speed, his arrival at the field or rink would elicit a murmuring of ‘Eric’s here’ from opponents and their parents. He’s ‘one to watch for’, the coaches would whisper to the bench.
‘What do you want to be when you grow up’? Eric’s senior kindergarten class was asked. A ‘doctor’, a ‘fireman’ were popular replies. Nothing so mundane for Eric; when he grew up, he wanted to be ‘a clown’ (and to some extent he succeeded). An example of his dry sense of humour is the username he registered on Xbox; LiverDie.
It wasn’t until Eric was diagnosed in 2010 that our extended and blended ‘family’ of 16, finally took a group vacation to Jamaica. Eric enjoyed parasailing (a photo now widely spread on facebook and ericsfight.com shows him and Nick soaring high in the air – his smile so wide – not a care in the world). Another highlight was a visit to Nine Mile; Bob Marley’s birth and burial site. Seated on a ‘meditation rock’, the sun beaming upon his face, Eric was ‘home’.
On the day Eric returned from his second trip to Texas, he was surprised to find a car in his driveway; a gift from his grandparents. Overjoyed, he wasted little time buying cool rims that cost more than the car itself.
One of Eric’s passions was poker. Online, he’d spend hours in a ‘penny’ tournament, often outlasting his mentor Francis (much to his frustration). The fact that the ‘jackpot’ was only a couple of dollars didn’t matter to Eric – he just loved to play. Honing his skills (by mercilessly beating his younger step- siblings), he soon moved on to the casinos. Lucky talismans in his pocket, we all knew better than to wish him ‘good luck’ (because that was bad luck). Surprisingly often, he’d come back a winner.
Always fashionable, in his low-hangin’ gravity-defying jeans and oversized T-shirts, Eric amassed an enviable collection of hats and running shoes. Under no circumstances must the bills of the hats be bent (much to his Aunt Kara’s chagrin) and the shoes could not be scuffed.
When Eric was first diagnosed in 2010, we quickly learned that even the oncologist knew little about this rare cancer. Much thanks to Toni, for becoming an expert in Fibrolamellar and designing ericsfight.com. Thanks also to Kara for her unwavering support and kicking off fundraising that covered Eric’s medical expenses in Texas. Team Eric’s supporters are too numerous to thank – and words can’t express our gratitude.
As do most 20 year olds, Eric wanted to experience independence – and so, in September, he (and his puppy Marley) moved into their own apartment (where he enjoyed visits from friends and family). As he was only three doors away, Eric remained as close to his family as ever.
A protective and loving brother, Eric was very involved in raising his younger sisters, Kristin and Sydney. He was ‘cool’ enough for them to confide in, but sensible enough to guide them in his firm but gentle way.
Though Eric’s health obviously declined over the past few weeks, he was never bed-ridden. He always took pride in his appearance – and even showered hours before he passed away.
The morning Eric died, it was clear that his battle was drawing to an end. But determined as ever, and not wanting to disappoint us, he fought on – until I (and the other family members present) told him it was ‘OK’ to go. Shortly thereafter, he passed away, his face expressing complete peace.
For those wondering why Eric was buried with a fork in his hand, it is because of an inspirational story included in Chicken Soup For the Soul. I’ll condense the story (which can be Googled for more detail). A woman with three months to live summoned her Pastor to discuss her funeral arrangements. Her instructions concluded with a puzzling request; that she be buried holding a fork in her hand. Why? Because at the many church functions and pot luck dinners the lady had attended, when the plates were cleared, inevitably, someone would call out – ‘keep your fork’ (as a delicious dessert would be served next). ‘Keep your fork. The best is yet to come’.
Eric, my son, my mini-me, you were courageous, determined and stubborn. You never complained. The ultimate pet lover (especially of illegal breeds) you were loyal and loving. It has been a true blessing to have had you in my life. I will love and miss you forever. Dad.