When the StoryCorps Mobile Booth visited Durham, North Carolina in 2006, David Wright decided to interview his friend, Eddie Lanier, Jr.
Eddie met David while panhandling on a highway exit ramp. He was homeless and fighting to stay sober. Eddie also had a history that few knew about — he is the son of a former mayor of Chapel Hill.
In 2014, StoryCorps returned to Durham and Eddie and David, who now live together, came back for a second interview. Eddie was suffering from a very advanced stage of emphysema, and didn’t have long to live. At StoryCorps, he spoke about the end of his life.
Hear excerpts of both interviews below. And watch an animated short based on Eddie’s life here.
StoryCorps collects interviews like this one through the StoryCorps Legacy program — an initiative to record the stories of people living with a serious illness.
Click here for the transcript.
EL: He said, “I’m going to take you home with me for a New Years Eve party. How would you like that?”
EL: I went to your home and had a shower, and you gave me some clean clothes. And we sat down at the table and I told you some stories about who I really was, and who my daddy was. There was a lot more to me than you might imagine.
David Wright (DW): I hope I was a little bit of a help along your path.
EL: Well you know, David, without your kindness, I don’t know. I wouldn’t say I’d have gone back drinking again. But I’d say, it would have been rough.
DW: You’re now in the hospice program.
EL: Yep, I guess it’s my turn, now.
DW: It’s your turn.
EL: My, uh, prognosis is that I should be dead a month from now. I honestly tell you, I look forward to dying. There’s a lot of people out there that’ll do anything to stay alive. Heart transplants, anything. But I’m telling you, I’ve done my business here, and I’m ready to go home. And, uh, when I wake up in the morning, to tell you the truth, I’m pissed off that I’m still here. Only way I get through the day, David, is to say, “Well, I’m going to make my life worthwhile by saying something of value.” That you can keep with you and can help you.
DW: I’m grateful for that. You’re certainly an inspiration to learn about how to live. And the last chapter here over the months, how to die.
EL: I want to say one thing about you. You really really been patient with me, and you cared for me tremendously. That’s going to count on your record, upstairs, and you got the finest record of anybody. Thank you for helping me so much.
DW: Oh, you’ve helped me so much. Thank you.