On Tuesday, the world lost an angel. His name was Daniel Davis, a neighbor, a hero, a fighter, but more importantly a close friend of mine I had known since my very first step in residing in the town of Jacksonville, since 2007.
It was mid-August of 2007 when I first met Daniel.
My family and I were new to Jacksonville. We had just departed from our summer stay at La Crescenta, California, and decided to move to Jacksonville, Alabama as a location for my former military-serving mother to retire. Courtesy of our previous landlord, Dr. Jeffrey Hedrick, we were introduced to the Davis family.
As my mom began to socialize with Daniel’s parents, and my little brother began conversing with Daniel’s little brother Jamie, I got a chance to get to know Daniel Davis and what his interests in music, film and entertainment were.
I found that like me, Daniel enjoyed playing video games, and soon discovered that he and I shared nostalgia for early 2000’s cartoon favorites, specifically Invader Zim.
But it was much more than our genuine conversation of cartoons that instilled our friendship. Each weekday morning, he and I would await at his driveway for our bus, the ‘green-and-white one’ to pick us up for school.
During our waits, we would frequently make small chit-chat among one another. Both of us sharing what grade we were in; I was in eighth, Daniel attending in seventh.
Soon, the tiny conversations would come to an end when on a very chilly Friday morning, while awaiting the bus, Daniel approached me and handed me a folded letter. I did not know what to expect at first glance; I assumed it would be something his parents drafted for my mom, in request of something important.
When I opened the note, I discovered it was a heart-warming message, handwritten by Daniel. “You may not have noticed I haven’t talked to you much,” wrote Daniel, “That’s because sometimes I get a little shy. On Sunday, I’m probably going to be busy, and today [Friday] and Saturday I don’t know what I’m doing, [but it’d be nice if] you could come over… Your friend, Daniel Davis.”
Daniel even added a P.S. message that will forever be locked in time with me, of which he requested to know my name once more since he couldn’t hear it clearly and was “too shy to ask again.” What soon followed was the reiteration of my name in a louder tone, and moreover an awesome friendship.
Each weekend, Daniel and I would hang out at each other’s house. There have been countless moments of which we often bonded over; immediate memories like playing outdated Mortal Kombat games, viewing Robot Chicken reruns and yesteryear anime classics, and watching the then-unknown “YouTube Poop” craze when our parents were not looking, always came to thought when recollecting our hang-outs.
I will never forget that special day in January of 2008, when my brother and I got a chance to sleep at the Davis place, while our mother was recovering at the hospital from a vertigo. It was like yesterday when that night Daniel and I were discussing everything from the Idiocracy film to what tomorrow would bring.
I did not want the day to end. Sadly, like someone in previous time once addressed: “All good things soon come to an end.”
By the third quarter of 2008, the bond between Daniel and I began to wane.
Our parents remained minimal among another, and soon my schedule alongside Daniel’s were meeting conflicting hours; it was impossible to hang out as we once did during our beginning high-school years.
Though we still rode the bus, awaiting at that same stop on his driveway, we remained awkwardly silent towards each other for the remainder of our school years; unsure as to why this very day I did not manage to break the silence, I could have drafted a personal letter to give him, as he once did for me.
I guess at the time, I did not even bother to sit down and understand fully as to what was occurring in his own personal life.
I soon found that Daniel was suffering from cancer.
It was not until January 2013 when we managed to reconnect, thanks in part to an invention called Facebook.
DM-ing a personal message detailing my concern for his health and reassurance that he and his family will always be in my prayers, Daniel responded with a genuine thank you and insisted that his health was bettering well enough for him to return home.
Looking back, Daniel was always being directed in-and-out to hospitals, depending on the severities of the cancerous disease. At one point, the cancer left a toll on a portion of his pelvis, making it difficult for him to walk. I vowed to him that during that summer and the next that I would visit.
I kept my promise, and in between the summers of 2013 and 2014, Daniel and I cruised down memory lane. We began to watch an array of shows as we once did during our initial high-school years.
Though it didn’t quite “feel the same,” it was still worthwhile seeing my buddy, and how strong he had come in battling cancer. In between playing video games, and him convincing me to give “Adventure Time” a chance, I noted how difficult it was for him at the time to utilize a walker to get from place to place.
It was a scene that sent chills down my spine; just knowing that my own best friend is going through this. But not once from my visitations have I ever heard him whine or complain how “life was unfair,” he was a trooper, and more importantly a hero working to rid away cancer.
One of the last times I saw Daniel, I saw him driving his parents’ truck. It was so ground-breaking to see him behind the wheel, still going about his day like nothing was interrupting his daily life. My last ever physical encounter with Daniel goes back to late 2014. I just entered my sophomore year and changed my major to Communication.
As I walked back to a former neighbor’s house, Daniel’s truck was driving along my route. Daniel stuck his head out the vehicle’s window as much as he could, hollering: “JEFF! BUDDY! We got to hang out sometime!”
I hollered across the street, in wake of busy traffic, responding: “I will Daniel! I won’t forget!”
We kept in frequent touch via Facebook up to January of 2015, until Daniel’s health further worsened.
On October 12, after news broke of Daniel getting weaker and weaker, countless others, including myself, posted a get well message on his wall, and thoughtful messages in his DM box, as a hopeful effort for him to stay strong.
Sadly, one day later, on October 13, Daniel had passed.
For some, Daniel’s unfortunate death was a coming moment; but for many others, it still came as a shock, for Daniel was always viewed as someone lively and more than ever, someone who was always there.
Glancing at the sight of the eight-year-old personal letter Daniel drafted for me, now sprawled upon my desk as I compose this piece, I sit here thinking how funny some things start the way they end. Because when Daniel and I first met, he handed me a letter.
And now that I say goodbye to him, it is I that now drafts a letter. May your sweet, brave soul be now free from all the pain, dear friend. You will never be forgotten. You and your family will forever be in my prayers. Rest peacefully in paradise.
Jefferson Varner IV