My friend Jerry passed away last Tuesday very unexpectedly and suddenly. I know his family and friends have their own memories, thoughts, and personal sense of loss. Here are a few things that made Jerry my friend, why he was special, why I will miss him.
I met Jerry 13 years ago. He was a participant in an online Q&A kind of website and a bunch of us figured out we lived fairly close together and decided to met up. He was working at Rauxa, a restaurant in Somerville, and a bunch of us decided to meet up there. CS and I got there first and had some time to chat with him and get to know him. Even upon first meeting him, he was pouring wine into huge balloon Riedel Bordeaux glasses and sliding incredible food across the table. We quickly became fast friends and, over time, a few of us became a core group of close friends that would hang out ever week together. When Rauxa closed, Jerry took those Riedel Bordeaux glasses and gave them to me as a gift and then gave me more every Christmas or birthday to complete the set. They sit in my bar in my living room and we use them weekly.
In those years, he was still living at home and made a space for himself in his parents basement, hanging out watching terrible and/or funny movies with his doggie companions, Elvis and Beulah. It was always fun to call his house because his wonderful mother would always answer and we’d chat and laugh for at least 15 minutes before she’d let him know the call was for him.
He always did incredibly thoughtful things for me, in typical Jerry fashion always thinking of his friends and going the extra mile to make them feel special. He shared his love of food with all of us and normally showed his love with food. He signed a bunch of us up for the Bacon of the Month club for Christmas and we were all so excited to await our next delivery of bacon every month for the rest of the year. My love of Abe & Louie’s is widespread knowledge. For my birthday, he would stop and get take-out steak tartare for me and bring it to the bar so we could all partake. When we had my bachelorette party there, he ordered a spray of beautiful flowers from Winston’s for the table.
There are a hundred such memories, but the closest ones are from the year my mom passed away. It was February and my mom had been diagnosed with cancer just a few months before. Her health waxed and waned and I had just become pregnant with my first child but was only about 6 weeks along and hadn’t told anyone, not even my parents. Jerry knew I was feeling down and asked me if I’d like to go his employers house, where he was a personal chef, to help him make candy for Valentine’s Day. He took me to Restaurant Depot to shop first, that mythical place where the non-food professionals are not allowed to wander. Back at the house, he gave me a little tour, showing me original costumes from the Boston Ballet, answering my architecture questions, and entertaining my general nosiness. We went down to the prep kitchen in the basement and spent the next 5 hours making candy, mostly in silence. He sensed I wasn’t feeling well, he could sense my stress (though he didn’t know morning sickness was also an issue!) and he just let me be. He just let me be there with him, dipping chocolates, making lollipops, trying to let the process put my brain on cruise control for a while.
A few months later, my mom passed away. By August, I was 8 months pregnant and grumpy. For my birthday, he invited me and my friends to his house for a cookout. He bought me a bottle of rose champagne he knew I loved so much and a picnic basket full of food complete with chorizo and duck breast and love… I still remember sitting on the back deck of his parents house, laughing when I didn’t think I felt like laughing, Jerry bringing the love and the food and the friendship. After my daughter Amelia was born the next month, he gave me a carousel for Christmas, complete with lights and horses and Christmas music. It still sits on her dresser in her room and she turns it on all the time so her and Elise can spin and dance to the music.
I have since moved overseas and back again, yet in a different state. I haven’t seen or spoken to him as much as I once did. I spoke to him the week before he died. His mom passed away last month and we talked about how he was feeling, how he was doing, how his family was getting on. We talked about previous plans to meet that fell through and to try again when I was in Boston this winter. He talked about what he and Luiz were up to, Luiz’s upcoming driving test. We talked about the little mundane things friends talk about. At the end, he said “Bye, honey”. Like he did every time we said goodbye since the day I met him.
He contributed to my life in so many wonderful ways, the way a good friend does. For me, when someone dies, I tend to reflect on what they meant to me and hope that I meant something to them, hoping that I contributed to their lives and made it better or even more interesting or hopeful that they smiled at some stupid thing or other when they thought of me. That I added something in there that the relationship with me was worth the time and effort they put into it. Otherwise, what are friends for? From my personal view, I don’t think Jerry’s out there reading this but I still hope that he thought it was worth knowing me. Thank you for the wine, the food, the laughter, the carousel and the friendship.
I’ll miss you always. Bye, honey.