Todd - laughing as usual - on the left at my wedding in January 2007

Todd – laughing as usual – on the left at my wedding in January 2007

Of all the people who have come in and out of my life, the only two that I genuinely miss both left the world at the same age – 31. The first, of course, is the “patron saint of R-Pro”, our beloved Sam Thompson. The other was a lynchpin in our personal extended family dynamic, our cousin/brother Todd Joseph Walsh.

While Sammy fought bravely against all manner of health issues his entire life, Todd fought another privately. Growing up, he gained the nickname “Eggbert” from our mother Wendy because of his gentle aloofness and warm heart. Todd and his older brother Jay and the two Baron brothers were thick as thieves since birth, thankfully living less than 10 minutes away from each other in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood. We laughed together, played together, and ate together more often than not (all four of us being husky during our childhoods, thus affectionately referred to as the “Funny Fat F@ckers” by our Dad). We shared friends, experiences, and a bond that could not be broken. No greater relationship have I ever had in my life than the one I shared with them.

After their mother passed away suddenly in 1996, Jay and Todd were separated by school, work, and family. Their family dynamic changed at a time when guidance is needed most, and (despite male bravado saying otherwise) “a boy needs his mother”. This, combined with a revolving door of living arrangements and relationships, eventually took it’s toll on his gentle nature and needed numbing.

He found that relief in drugs.

We knew that Todd was using, but really didn’t understand the depth of his problem until around 2008 or so. At the time, he had a live-in girlfriend who genuinely loved him very much and help support him. We all liked her a lot and felt that she might be the one to finally get through to him. His habit got to be too much for even her and, heartbroken, she left. Todd got worse. The family tried having interventions after this, but to no avail.

On February 21, 2011 I was sitting at my desk at the car dealership Jacques and I worked at when I heard a scream. It was my Mom who was the receptionist. I ran over to see what was wrong and she was crying hysterically. “Todd’s dead! They found him in his room.” My heart sank. I threw my arms around her. The owner was walking by with a typically annoyed look on his face. I told him what happened and that I was taking her home. I was numb.

Jacques called me as I was on my way home, crying uncontrollably while asking the same question over and over again: “Why?”. I didn’t have an answer then and likely never will.

He passed away due to an accidental overdose – using when he was on a heroin replacement supplied from rehab that was too much for his body. It wasn’t suicide, it wasn’t deliberate – it was an honest and tragic mistake. He didn’t have a malicious bone in his body. Seeing how his passing has effected so many people he touched during his life that would have hurt him worse than anything else. He has three beautiful little nieces that miss him, cousins full of regret, a brother that lost his best friend along with others too numerous to list. His life, like Sammy’s, touched many – more than he ever got the chance to understand. Jacques and I don’t get to see Jay as much as we should now. Part of that is “growing up” and all of us with families of our own, part of it just being sad I suppose – not wanting to deal with the pain of his absence. We keep his memory alive through stories, anecdotes, and photos we share with our wives and kids, but it’s not the same. He did “Todd” better than we ever could, no matter how hard we all try.

August 30th, 2015 would have been Todd’s 36th birthday. I have pictures of him all over my house. Always laughing, always smiling – something that seemingly came easy. My heart warms every time I look at them. My daughter Amelie loves for me to tell her stories before bed time, her favorites being about the four cousins and our misadventures as kids. The hardest question she’s has ever asked me in her 3 years is “Who’s Todd?”. She knows his face from photos – always laughing, always smiling… just like her. That’s the Todd I’ll always think of until the next time I see him.

Happy Birthday, Eggy.

Gabriel Baron