Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rest in Peace Dennis Ffrench

I decided to download the film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It is a pretty well-known film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who portray a married couple living double lives. It was quite a movie. It touched me, made me laugh and made me cry. In the final showdown, the wife told the husband that there was nowhere else she would rather be than there with him. In this scene, they worked as a coordinated unit, protecting the other from being shot at by assassins surrounding them.

It took The Smiths a while to achieve this level of teamwork, trust and openness in communication.

I am quite the blubberer, always bawling my eyes out in movies and applying each movie's message to human nature and my experience of it. As I watched this scene, I behaved no differently. I remembered a good friend of mine who was viciously killed in front of his wife. He was known to be a talkative, loud man. At first, when I just met him as a schoolgirl going to sit with my father until it was time to go home....I didn't like him that much. His name was Dennis Ffrench. He always seemed to me to be bragging about money and possessions. He did however love music MORE than I did, so I slowly got used to him. Then I began to like him. Then I began to trust him.

We became good friends. Especially when my father retired and I, by that time, being a working adult, had begun working on the same building but a different floor. My father and I did not always see eye to eye, we still don't. But Mr. Ffrench was always encouraging me to stay with my family and not distance myself. He would tell me about his days growing up with his father and how his father always gave him useful advice. He would make me laugh by encouraging me to move back home and buy a big flashy Rav-4 sports utility vehicle. But, I always smiled and shook my head. By that time, I was living on my own. Mr. Ffrench made my work environment comforting in a sense, as I knew he was someone who had my back.

What I appreciated most about Dennis Ffrench was how much he cherished his wife, Joy. They were such a team, those two. He was tall, burly, cheerful and boisterous. She was short, sturdy and always smiled indulgently, shaking her head. They had been together since teenage years. Before he had traveled for college overseas.

I always mouthed him around my colleagues and also my closest friends, telling them how there was this man who was very cocky about his gun and was a devout believer in the right to carry licenced firearms. Mr Ffrench would say to me, enthusiastically as usual: Ay Danielle, my wife have to get a gun one day yuh nuh. Cause anyhow a man want to violate, mi a guh seh MAN ON, MUUMMY! COVER MI!

He also believed in making sure Joy felt loved and valued. He always told me that she should have a nicer car than he did
and that selfish husbands would neglect in an area like that.

Well. The last time that Dennis and Joy drove home together as a married couple, they were pounced upon by a lone gunman who shot Dennis in the head while Joy was apparently entering the house. Dennis was still outside. He was not able to say Man On! Muummy! Cover mi! They were unable to utilize the teamwork they had learned to achieve over their several years of marriage. Dennis lay bleeding from the gunshot wound, his life oozing away. The gunman who was masked said softly to Joy "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you."

"Tell mi something. You have anything to eat? Mi hungry bad. Yuh have any snack?"

Joy saw her husband. She knew he was not dead yet. She made herself walk into an area where there was some kind of food for this masked man to eat. He kept on his mask and ate her food.

Then when he was finished, he said, "Mek mi tell yuh something. Don't married to no police or no man dat have gun. Arite Muumy?" Then he left.

Dennis died.

Joy moved out of the house. She did not wash away the bloodstains that were left behind as remnants of the painful way she lost her life's partner. She put a wreath of flowers around the bloodstains.

I have not spoken to Mrs. Ffrench since the incident. When I heard initially I was sad but the shock prevented me from crying. At the wake which was held at our workplace, I was preoccupied with a task at my desk. I heard the music playing downstairs. I noticed when the music stopped and apparently tributes were being given. At one point my coworker came upstairs and asked if I wasn't going to stop down there for a second. They still had food. But I was on work autopilot and just wanted to finish my task so I could attempt to meet yet another deadline. As it goes sometimes. When I went downstairs, on my way out, men were playing dominoes. Everyone else had left. It didn't bother me much. Because I genuinely felt the loss of losing my friend.

I went to the funeral. These days I make the effort to attend funerals more than weddings. At least, that has been my behaviour in these last days of my mint new youth. At the funeral, I sat beside another friend who I actually have known longer than Dennis. She wept softly and I patted her hand.

I sat at the back of the church on account of my reaching there late. There were small screens all over the church in the pews that were not close to the front. The choir began to sing a song about gathering by the river. It was the sweetest sounding choir I had ever heard live. I looked up and saw the picture of Dennis on the screen. Smiling with his snaggletooth at the side of his mouth. I realized how horribly life had treated him, how much he had loved his wife and how she would have to spend the rest of her life without him. I thought about the friend I had come to know and love. My grief burst through. I sobbed right until the pallbearers wheeled his body out.

In this life, you will meet people and after a time, you may become friends. After decades, they become like family. You will value them and they will value you. For couples in love and in solid relationships, it may seem hard to imagine your life without the person once you realize how much you like and love them and appreciate them. Like my grandmother. Who was everything to me. I knew our time would expire but I blocked it out when she told me she would be going. I didn't want to imagine living without this person who made everything ok, and made me always hope and be optimistic.

She's in heaven. Or wherever. I don't know where she is except that I know she is in my heart. Her love for me has given me so much strength that I will live on this earth and do whatever I need to do to honour her memory. Which is not pressuring since she accepted me for who I was. Her grandchild.

Love is such a beautiful gift. So is friendship. When you hold my hand, I feel love. Just like when my grandmother held my hand.

I'm glad that Mr. and Mrs Smith ended well. That it had a good ending. But Dennis died. And Joy couldn't save him. She put flowers around his blood. I believe he is in her heart.

Rest in Peace Dennis. You were a good friend and a good man. And I know what you and Joy had. It inspired me to want that too.

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