He came into our post and our lives like the countless explorers before him. He wasn't the brightest or
strongest of kids, but we soon learned he was definitely someone very special, whether it was his
never give up attitude or his nearly obsessive desire to help people. We worked with him week after
week with his writing, his drill, and his codes, he struggled but never gave up. He was determined to
make us proud of him and he did.
He wasn't always in the best of moods, we knew he had family problems, but he never once left without
giving you a smile. He had a heart of gold that could warm the coldest of souls. I remember a time
when we took the Explorers to the Los Angeles Police Department for a tour, one of the girls was on
crutches with a broken leg. Without thinking twice he carried her on his back up 3 flights of stairs,
smiling all the way. He seemed happy and content with life, or so we thought. He seemed to be on top
of the world and climbing, how could we have been so very wrong. All was right in the world until his life
and ours came to a grinding halt in the summer of '92.
It was Thursday, July 9th, A.J. had not been at yesterday's meeting. We did not think much of it, after
all it was summer. I remember going to work that afternoon. There was a dead silence when I walked in the door, everyone just stared at me. Someone told me the Sgt. was looking for me so I went to his office, by the look on his face I knew the news was not good. A.J. attempted suicide, he hung himself I was told. The news hit me like a bomb shell. It couldn't be true, there had to be some mistake, A.J. was the last person who would do such a thing. The Sgt. said he was at San Dimas hospital and if I hurried I might be able to see him before he died. All the way to the hospital I hoped and prayed that there had been some mistake, that he would be there to say, "got ya" with his trade mark grin. My hopes were shattered when I got to the emergency room. Needles and tubes invaded nearly every part of his body. A small towel covering his waist was all that preserved what was left of his dignity. As I looked at those deep marks on his neck, I just asked "Why?" He gave no signs, what could have been so bad? I would do anything to have him back for just 5 minutes and asked him why?
The next step was the hardest, to break the news to the explorers, how do you tell 19 teenagers one of
their best friends was just hours or days away from death when you don't understand it yourself? It's
ironic that it would rain for the next 3 days in the middle of July... was God as sad as I was?
We called a meeting and I broke the news. One by one everyone started crying, but there was hope,
after all he was on life support, there was always a chance. Then the phone rang, the kids could
tell by my face when I hung up that the news was not good. "He's gone, huh"? someone asked.
"He died 30 minutes ago, yea... he's gone," I replied. While we spent the next several hours talking
about the good times we spent with him and the difficult times we shared with him, but mostly though, we just asked why?
We talked until 2 in the morning but no one could think of an answer. A.J. set out to solve all the
world's problems, but maybe, just maybe, he should have started with his own.
Five days later came the funeral. So many people showed up, some of us had to stand outside. It was
113 degrees out, but no one cared... he would have done the same for us. The priest said A.J. must
have been in a lot of pain that he never told anyone about, and at least that pain was gone. It made sense,
but it was still difficult trying not to feel sorry for ourselves. As the funeral went on and we said our
last good-byes, we knew we were saying good-bye to his body but his spirit would be with us forever.
A.J., your short life taught us a lot. You taught us to live every day as if it was our last because you
never know when it will be your time to go. You taught us to listen to, and appreciate each other,
because you never know what tomorrow will bring. There is just one thing you left without telling us,
and that's "why". Oh, well...
I am going to close with a quote from a song that came out a few weeks before you died.
I never wanted to write these words down for you with the pages, filled with phrases, of all the things
we'll never do, so I'll blow out the candle and I'll put you to bed. Since you can't say to me how the dog
broke your bone, there's just one thing left to be said... "say hello to Heaven'."
I am going to miss you buddy, good-bye for now...
written by © Chris