Commentary: My reflections on attending an unexpected funeral for a dear friend

By Steve Brosnihan
Posted 8/8/19

I hadn’t planned on running that morning. I couldn’t park anywhere near Holy Rosary church in Foxpoint due to a huge turnout for the memorial service I hoped to attend. I tried Benefit …

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Commentary: My reflections on attending an unexpected funeral for a dear friend

Posted

I hadn’t planned on running that morning. I couldn’t park anywhere near Holy Rosary church in Foxpoint due to a huge turnout for the memorial service I hoped to attend. I tried Benefit Street, found a space a half mile away, parked and started running. The sprint wasn’t in vain as the service was just beginning upon my arrival. Standing room only, but I maneuvered my way into a door frame that afforded a view of the altar.
The service was for my childhood friend Dan Pereira, “Danny” forever in my memory. He was killed along with six other motorcyclists in a horrific crash in New Hampshire involving a truck driver who should not have been behind the wheel, compounding the tragedy.
My brother Ron called when he heard the names of the victims with one being too accurate a description of our old friend to have been coincidence: 58 years-old; lived in Riverside; Marine; Daniel Pereira.
I grew up with Danny through our teens. Sports framed my social life and Danny and I seemed to be constant teammates in baseball. We also built our friendship on the fields and basketball courts at Pierce Field, playing lots of pick-up hoop. Danny shone as a shooter and ball handler while I played the role of hustling rebounder—no other court skills to report.
Danny was a charming kid with Hollywood good looks. Before girls figured that out most of our moms were noting that the handsome kid with the great smile, long hair and athletic build was destined to be a heartthrob.
I recall only kind, supportive words from Danny seasoned with his disarming humor. I also recall his competitiveness and abilities as an athlete. The friendship of a slightly older boy was a boost to my self-confidence, something I sorely needed as an insecure kid.
On an infamous occasion in the mid-’70’s an older playground personage with a ’64 Ford Falcon featuring a state-of-the-art 8-track player offered to take some of us teens cruising on the backroads of Rehoboth, him the responsible driver while we were irresponsible as passengers. On that summer evening I had a front seat position, allowing me to enjoy the then popular “Elton John’s Greatest Hits” tape that included “Daniel,” a song I am hearing in my head as I write.
In a moment that lives in infamy, Danny suddenly lurched forward from the back seat and threw up on me. It was pure horror—but I never held a grudge. Needless to say I also never accepted the “shotgun” position on subsequent cruises when Danny was in the back seat.
At the service another childhood friend from the neighborhood, Father Joe Escobar, officiated magnificently. His eulogy helped update me on that old friend with whom I had lost touch. Father Joe’s words and those of Danny’s nephews fleshed-out the admirable man he had become: a beloved husband, father, uncle and friend; a hardworking man of immense physical strength with kindness of heart to match; a champion of children’s charities; a man who knew how to live fully and find laughter wherever he could; a family man of faith; a lover of humor, often with an edge; a Marine.
As I stood in the door frame the exertions of my run combined with heat and humidity to send perspiration rolling down my back. I hoped that people standing behind me wouldn’t notice my dampening shirt and I comforted myself thinking that Danny would have laughed: we spent plenty of time sweating together on that Pierce Field basketball court, shirts vs. skins. There I was sweating again in the presence of his spirit.
I have been more affected, more saddened, by the loss of Dan Pereira than I anticipated. Though we lost touch four decades ago, there was comfort knowing that he was out there, still being his version of Danny as a mature man. I heard tidbits about him over the years that affirmed his presence and kept our legacy of friendship vital in memory. With his untimely loss an appreciated ingredient of my own formation as a person has died.
My heart breaks for those whose hearts are most broken over Dan’s passing: his immediate family. Though the loss must feel unsupportable, I can assure them that the spirit of my childhood friend, as well as that of the good man I got to know at his memorial service, will always be a positive influence upon all who knew him, including me.

Mr. Brosnihan is the resident cartoonist at Hasbro Children's Hospital and creator of the “Good Night Lights” program there.

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