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Jeff Friday
By Vanessa Westdahl
Genre: Non-fiction Level: Junior 7-9
Year: 1997 Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

"Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same if I saw you in heaven?" -- Eric Clapton

Jeff Friday was tall; he had brown eyes, black hair and an unforgettable smile. On Friday, Dec. 13, 1996, he shot himself with a .22 rifle, two inches above the belly-button. The bullet ricocheted off his ribs and went into his heart. He was my cousin.

He got the gun from the basement of his house. We think he shot himself over a girl and family problems. He was only 17, a sophomore at Dimond High School.

He kept saying he was going to kill himself, but nobody really believed he would do it. He tried committing suicide before by overdosing on nonprescription pills, and Jeff's friend told me that he tried jumping off a second-story porch.

"Could you hold my hand if I saw you in heaven? Could you help me stand if I saw you in heaven?"

On the day he died, three of Jeff's friends were there. They were all sitting around watching "The Simpsons." Evidently, Jeff simply walked back into his room and shot himself. Another friend had been with them right before it happened, but he had to go home and get something. He heard the gunshot and went back to Jeff's house. There were cop cars and ambulances everywhere.

Jeff's parents had a funeral for him on Dec. 20. All of his friends from school, around his neighborhood, and his family and teachers were there. Everybody was really sad. They were all crying. People talked about their memories of him. Jeff's parents said that he was really caring, that he had lots of friends and he cherished them. His friends remembered how he loved to fix BMX bikes and play football. He liked to be with them all the time. He never liked to be alone.
"Beyond the doors there's peace I'm sure, and I know there will be no more tears in heaven."

Jeff was born on Nov. 1, 1979, in Anchorage. For the past 15 years he'd lived in Hooper Bay. He loved fishing, clam digging, and camping near lakes and streams. He was an outside person.

Whenever anyone was upset they could always count on Jeff to listen to them. He was really sweet and could always make me laugh.

About three or four days before he died he bought his mom a CD. That was unusual for him because he never bought anything for his mom with his own money before. The CD was called "Eric Clapton Unplugged." The song that stuck with everybody was called "Tears in Heaven," because it was written about the death of Clapton's son.

"I must be strong and carry on 'cause I know I don't belong
here in heaven."

About the Author: Vanessa Westdahl, 14, attends Mears Junior High in Anchorage.

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