In 1995, when Scott was at his lowest point, someone older, wiser and stronger threw him a lifeline.
“Ed Brunelle saved this life,” Scott explains. “He gave me life. I didn’t have life before meeting Ed. I had an existence.”
“I had moved around town to town, job to job, city to city. I hit what I call my bottom at the age of 24,” Scott recalls.
Then, one day someone gave Scott advice to seek out a detox unit and get sobered up. After spending a month and a half at the unit and then in transition, Scott met Ed Brunelle when Ed became his substance abuse counselor at Catholic Charities Crozier House. “Ed was my guide along the way. He was very intelligent, very caring. This was his life. He had no children,” Scott explained.
A former college professor, Ed loved to teach and incorporated his profession into his work at Crozier House. Ed taught from experience, being a person who struggled with substance abuse during his life.
“He loved to teach. He made you his primary interest. We always said with Crozier, it was his life. He went through this and he knew what you were going through. He gave you the kick in the butt when you needed it to help break denials and rationalizations,” Scott recalls. “Ed kept saying, ‘Keep going. Keep going.’”
Scott credits Ed with being responsible for Scott’s return to education, eventually earning his degree in human services and becoming a certified substance abuse counselor. “He would tell me that your brain is hungry and needs to be fed. That was the kind of encouragement he gave you. ‘Go walk through your fears and try it,’ he would say.”
Theirs was a relationship of mutual respect, mutual love. “I became like his son. I would call him my recovery father,” Scott says. “He would often say, ‘You snuck into my heart when I wasn’t looking.’” But then, Scott adds, Ed treated all of the folks at Crozier House like his children.
“I’d whine here and there about life, and he one day told me, ‘Scott, if you want fulfillment in your life, you’ll need to have a child of your own someday.’ And, I would then know fulfillment. I then asked him how he knew that because he didn’t have any children. Ed replied, ‘Exactly.’”
One May morning in 2004, Ed Brunelle – ever predictable and precise – didn’t show up at his cluttered office at Crozier House. Scott noticed first that his bagged donut, a daily ritual with Ed, wasn’t on the shelf. It was soon after that the knock by another Crozier staff person on the door at Ed’s apartment went unanswered. Ed Brunelle, at the age of 69, had passed away peacefully in his sleep. The folks at Crozier House will tell you that there has been an empty space in their hearts ever since.
But each of them has learned that they must live in and for today, just as Ed had taught them. They have found ways to move on, ever remembering the legacy of Ed Brunelle. Scott’s love for his young son has begun to fill the void left when Ed passed away.
“The legacy that Ed left me was that he taught me that human contact is the most important thing and that giving of one’s self is essential,” Scott says. “Ed was a great man. He was a truly, truly wonderful individual. He did God’s work – God’s work directly. That’s the one part of Ed we will carry on here at Crozier House.”