Today, my friend died. Today, I am sad. Brian was one of the last guys with Duchenne I knew from Northwest Ohio MDA Camp. We called him Squeaky because he had a squeaky voice. I was enthralled with it, to the point where I would make him squeak and say magic mushroom over and over again. Brian would do it and we’d laugh together. We were social friends then. I was a little older than him (a little over two years, but I was pretty mature for my age). I was socially much more outgoing and outspoken. Then we both became MDA Goodwill Ambassadors. He was for Northwest Ohio. I represented the entire state. We bonded because we went to so many events together. Then we grew up and I went off to college.
Thanks to Facebook we were able to reconnect. Brian and his parents, Judy and Dennis, were three of my biggest supporters. His family loved me for who I was. They loved and accepted Dominick. They didn’t care about my past. They cared about the person I became. Sometimes I spoke to them on the phone, but not enough. I was always busy with school, filming or something else. I always figured I could call Brian tomorrow, when I had a little more time and now there is no more tomorrow.
Brian and I had similar conversations whenever we spoke. We both loved NASCAR, but for him it went beyond passion. It was a way of life. We both hated Kyle Busch. He would always say, “Dom, I hate Kyle Busch.” I would say, “me too” and he’d be happy we agreed. We both wanted Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart to win races. We shared a love for video games, and he’d always ask me about the games I’d play. He was great at shooters and I sent him some games I had, because I knew he loved them so much. Every time we spoke he’d tell me he hoped I got free time to play games. He always asked about Ash and our son. He knew how important they were to me and he always hoped they were doing well. He was thoughtful, in his own way, and always wanted to know we were all healthy, safe and happy.
Brian felt isolated at home. He wanted to talk to friends more, and I wish I would have given him more time. I asked him once if he was afraid of dying and he said no. We talked sometimes about Duchenne and how so many of our friends were already dead who had the disease. I told him how I felt guilt at being alive, when so many of our friends were dead. He understood and yet he told me not to blame myself. He knew one day his time would come. He knew it would come far before the average person’s time came. I believe Brian chose to go quietly and peacefully because that was how he was. Still, his death is a shock. We knew this day would come, but we didn’t want it to be so soon.
Brian was my friend. He was just 30 years old when he died. He was someone who cared about me. He was more than just the kid with the squeaky voice. He was a person I valued as a human being. It hurts for him to be gone. It makes me mad at Duchenne all over again. It makes me want a cure. It makes me want to never hear of another boy or man dying of Duchenne again. Brian is one of the last from my generation, that I grew up with who had Duchenne. I have watched them one by one, pass away before their time. I have been the witness to their deaths and though I have seen more death than any 31 year old should see, it never gets easier.
I pray to all the Gods the pain of Judy and Dennis is lessened. I pray they can celebrate his life and how long he lived in spite of Ducheene. I want them to celebrate the guy who loved NASCAR, computer games, talking to friends, and helping his dad fix computers. I want them to celebrate the guy who loved talking about his dad’s race car and told me excitedly about going to the track. I want them to celebrate the guy who accepted who he was. He was not afraid of dying. He knew he would go before he grew old and yet he still had a smile on your face.
I will miss you Brian. I will miss our talks. I will miss calling you up and sharing things that only you could understand. I will miss getting messages on Facebook from you that always cheered me up. You were a great guy and though I am glad you went peacefully…you went your way…your loss still leaves a hole in my heart with the rest of the guys with Duchenne that have left with you. I will miss you and I will never forget you.[tags]death, friend, sadness, RIP, Brian Helsel, Rest in Peace[/tags]