Monday, March 19, 2007

I think his name was Jean-Luc...

but I'm not sure any more. I could always check my mission journals and find out, but I'm feeling too lazy. So...we'll just say his name was Jean-Luc.

One of my favorite times on my mission was living with Soeur Laverne on le rue Van Horne, just up the street from le metro Plamondon. Soeur Laverne and I lived on the third story of a three-story apartment building, and our apartment faced Van Horne, a very busy, noisy street in the heart of Montreal. (Side note: our district leader nicknamed us Laverne and Shirley because we habitually made it home after his nightly phone call - we were supposed to be home before. He'd sing into our answering machine, "Give us any rule we'll break it" - obviously to the music of L&S's theme song. I was Shirley, I think because I was shorter and had dark hair, but I'm not positive now.) Our apartment housed people from all sorts of countries. It nightly smelled strongly of the different foods being prepared with all sorts of spices, and it seemed everyone cooked fish on the same day. Our little apartment had no air conditioning, lots of windows, hard wood floors, a broken fan (not fun in 90+ weather with 150% humidity), a balcony, and an elderly concierge - Jean-Luc (JL).

I couldn't understand a word that came out of JL's mouth, his accent was so thickly quebecois (pronounced kay-bek-qwah). I think Laverne just pretended to understand him. I had never been in a full quebecois area (fyi, quebecois = canadian french and is kind of comparable to American english vs. Great Britain english), so I had had very little exposure to anyone speaking like JL. When we saw him, I would say bonjour and smile like an idiot while he said supposedly nice things to Laverne and me. He was a nice man and helped us with the repairs our little apartment often required. The night before he died, we locked ourselves out of our apartment and went to his apartment to request his aid. He had us stay in his apartment while he worked on getting our door open. It housed an eclectic collection of old, dusty knick-knacks.

Laverne and I had been working together for several months, and I knew that my time in this area was coming to a close. Unfortunately, a male investigator that was working with two of the elders in our district had developed a crush on me and had made it known to me, Laverne, and the elders one Friday night at a ward party. Transfers were the following Monday, and I knew when he told me his feeling that I wouldn't be staying. I was sad, but I had enjoyed my time in the area and with Laverne.

Monday mornings, our prep-days, Laverne and I normally did our laundry in the downstairs facilities after finishing our daily studies. While our loads washed, we'd clean the apartment, then put our clothes in the dryer. While our clothes dried, we'd write letters and plan the day's activities. This Monday, however, we waited to do our laundry, wanting to be in our apartment when the district leader called to tell us about transfers. He called, and I had been right, I was being transferred to a small town outside of Ottawa, Ontario. I was bummed, but it had been expected. Our zone leader was being made an AP (Assistant to the President), so our zone was going to have a goodbye party for everyone in the zone that was being transferred. While Laverne talked to Elder Boyle, our DL, about the plans, we heard a commotion outside our apartment building. It sounded like someone yelling for help.

I ran to our balcony and Laverne went to our window. I saw JL stagger down our steps, his hand clutched to his chest, before collapsing face-down on the grass in front of the building. I yelled to Laverne to call 911 and she did. A passerby had rushed to see what was wrong with JL and as he rolled JL onto his back, I saw blood soaking his shirt and a blood stain on the grass. I wanted to vomit. Somehow I didn't. Laverne yelled instructions to me (from the 911 person) and I yelled them to the man beside JL on the grass. He'd then yell to me and I'd yell to Laverne (our window didn't open) who would tell the 911 person. The paramedics finally arrived and the 911 person let Laverne get off the phone, so she came out on the balcony with me. From our viewpoint, we could watch the paramedics work on JL. We watched as he died. I could actually tell when it happened, strange, but I really could. Laverne must have, too, because she looked at me and we started to cry.

After an eternity, they loaded him into the ambulance and took him away, somewhere. Police had blocked off the road, so there were no cars driving by. It felt so strange. We watched the police going in and out of the building and wondered what had happened and what was happening right then. After a bit, they brought out an old man I had never seen before and put him in another ambulance. He didn't look hurt, but we really couldn't tell. He was in grayish blue boxer shorts and had a dark gray robe that wasn't cinched around his waist but flapped around him as he was led to the ambulance.

It was a couple hours later that we learned what had happened. We weren't supposed to leave the apartment, but I needed to do some things to get ready for my move the next day. We went downstairs and found a policeman in the lobby - there were pools of blood on the tile floor. He gave us permission to leave and told us what had happened. JL had been in his office (which was right next door to the laundry room) when a resident barged in, angry about getting an eviction notice. He was acting crazy, according to eyewitnesses. JL handled him firmly, but gently, and the man left, seemingly appeased. He came back a short time later and stabbed JL in the chest. JL had staggered up the mini flight of stairs to the lobby and out the door, looking and calling for help.

We could have been down there had we not waited for the call from the elders. The policeman told us the approximate time it happened and it was about when we would have gone down to put our clothes in the washers. I hate to think about seeing that happen up-close, or worse, being involved somehow. As it was, it was a horrible thing to witness just what we did, after the stabbing. We were subdued the rest of the day, and at the party I just couldn't get my mind off what had happened. All the elders were awesome and one offered to give us blessings. Ah, you gotta love the priesthood and the worthy men that hold it!

When we turned off the sidewalk into our apartment building, we notice that the grass and sidewalk were stained with blood. Fortunately, the lobby floor had been cleaned and we only notice an occassional red drop. We talked a lot that night, later than we should have, but it was theraputic. We talked about life and death, the plan of salvation, and our gratitude for our knowledge of that plan. We reminisced about our encounters with Jean-Luc and laughed about my complete inability to understand him, even when he was just saying bonjour. We prayed for his family and all those he left behind.

The next day I left. I was sad to leave for so many reasons but was excited to begin again in a new area, with a new sister, with new people to meet and love.


Alyson said...

That's a pretty crazy story. I'm glad you weren't down checking on your laundry during the whole thing. Your story telling is excellent.

P.S. I didn't really think you had been married, but I know how honest you are and I didn't think you would intentionally lie to your readers :).

Adam said...

Wow, that's quite the experience.

It ends with a "come-on," though, so now I'm waiting for the next chapter.

It is a very, very cool story. Sad that such a kind man had to die that way.

Cassie said...

How traumatic! I'm glad that God kept you out of harm's way.

Cardine said...

Wow. I'm sorry that you had to experience that. I definitely would have been freaking out to see the blood.

I'm glad that my life is relatively trauma-free. Why does it seem like there is so much that happens while you are a missionary?

Framed said...

You really are a great story teller. I felt like I was there, but glad I didn't have to witness that experience.

booklogged said...

What an intense story and what a horrible thing to witness. Like the others, I am glad you weren't in the laundry room at the time.

About the missionary that had feelings for you - did he get in contact afterwards?

julie said...

Book, actually, it was an investigator and no, he never did get in contact with me. But then, he didn't know how. And, he was nice, but it would have been weird.

Adam, sorry, I didn't intend to make it end with a "come-on" and there isn't going to be another chapter. Of course, my next area was filled with interesting people, and I had some really weird experiences, but none that I'm planning on sharing any time soon. Again, sorry! :)

Cardine, good question. If I remember correctly, which I know I do, you also had some interesting experiences on your mission. I guess it's just the nature of the beast. If you know what I mean.

Aly,!?! It wasn't a LIE it was just a way to wake up any reader who had fallen asleep. Yeah, that's it. I'm pretty sure nobody thought I had ever really been married - it's not something I would keep to myself... or would I?!?! :)

I'm glad everyone liked the story - if I can use the word "like" for this type of story. Thanks for the comments, as always!

tearese said...

how traumatic. I was telling Joseph as I read the story, and I was like, " And then he had a heart attack outside....oh wait there was blood!" And we were in suspense waiting to see what happened.
How sad to see someone you know die that way. I saw a guy beating up his girlfriend outside my apartments once (the police arrived shortly thereafter) and I saw another guy get tazered by the police outside too, but nothing as extreme as your experience.

Anonymous said...

Wow.... that's all I can say.

julie said...

Tearese, sounds like you live in an interesting area! The oddest thing that happened in my last apartment was someone shooting a neighbor's car. My roommate and I were both asleep or gone or something, so we didn't know about it until later.

c jane said...


Emmie said...

When I read that you lived near Pladmondon, I heard (in my head) the metro woman's automated voice say: "La Prochaine Station: Pladmondon."

What a crazy Montreal experience! I didn't witness anything close to that traumatic when I was there.

Except maybe that time my comp and I saw a portly man (with a giant handlebar moustache) mowing his lawn wearing nothing but a speedo and cowboy boots.

Vive Les Quebecois!

Emmie said...

And I think I meant "Plamondon." The extra "d" was silent.

tearese said...

yeah, we live in the one square mile of highest crime in our county. But I think most of the crime consists of car thefts (half a dozen people in our ward had their cars stolen) and stuff like that.
But strangely, I feel quite safe in my neighborhood. Where we lived in Seattle, on the other hand, we heard someone getting beat up by a big group of guys in the park next door and we had to call the cops. Since we've moved, half the crimes we hear about in seattle were within blocks of that apartment building.

XYZinn said...

Julie, I was just browsing through some of your posts and came across this one. How random that I was just thinking about this apartment a few days ago. Did you know I lived there too? It was such a crazy apartment with all sorts of weird smells. Remember the bathroom and how there was that window/hole thingy? That was so random. I slept in the big bed and Soeur, oh crap, I forgot her name, slept in the smaller bed. She was from Canada and had long blond hair. What was her name??? Do you know who I am talking about?
It was such a noisy aparment and so hot! I can't believe I have been home from my mission for so long. I have forgotten a lot. It is good to have reminders every once in a while. Hey, write me back if you get this. My email is
Oh, by the way this is Soeur Bellessa...Jill Bellessa-Zinn now. I miss you. I am glad I found your blog!! :)

XYZinn said... wrote this on my 30th birthday!!!