Calvin community to remember life of senior student Eric De Groot
Check out a personal note from the author in this week’s editorial.
When Kory Kiefer first moved into the dorms at Calvin, he and his roommate, Eric De Groot, didn’t exactly hit it off.
“The first time I made contact with him was a Facebook message a month before we moved into the dorms,” Kiefer said. “I messaged him first and he responded back with ‘Yeah c u at the dorm.’ I was like, oh no, this kid’s not nice.”
But all that would change.
“For the first three months, we were not the best of friends, but we got along more and more and became best friends,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer was De Groot’s roommate and best friend from that day until this August, when De Groot, 21, died tragically and unexpectedly.
The Calvin community, along with De Groot’s family from California, will remember De Groot’s life Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the chapel.
And as his friends look back at who De Groot was, they remember a friend who always had a smile on his face.
“There was never a time I was with him that he wasn’t smiling and laughing — and everyone wasn’t smiling,” said senior Emily Bruins, one of De Groot’s close friends.
Senior Sam Baas, who studied engineering and interned with De Groot, agreed.
“Whenever he would show up to things, it would get way better,” he said. “Everybody loved having Eric around. He enhanced a good time.”
But if there was one thing that was more contagious than De Groot’s smile, it was his laugh.
“He would tell a story and laugh at it before he got the joke out,” said senior Aaron Hensen, who was going to be De Groot’s housemate this fall. “And then someone else would come in the room, and he’d tell the exact same story and laugh at all the same spots. He’d always cackle and it would fill the room.”
Baas agreed, saying that De Groot could get a whole room to laugh.
“He had the most distinctive laugh,” said Baas. “It was funny because he laughed at it and his laugh was funny.”
Baas continued to say that one of De Groot’s many gifts was an ability to look on the bright side.
“He’d always make whatever situation lighthearted; he’d find the funniness in things,” he said. “If we had to do like eight hours of engineering homework, we’d just laugh about how it would be a good story to tell people.”
Hensen highlighted the same idea with a story about when De Groot got sunburned one year at the B-93 Birthday Bash.
“He was out in the sun from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and he was just roasted as a lobster,” said Hensen. “And he never complained. If that was me, I’d be complaining, but Eric just never complained.”
Another one of Hensen’s favorite memories of De Groot came from in the smoker’s pit.
“He would go out to the smoker’s pit in this plaid, thick wool jacket — over-sized for him — and some gym shorts,” he said. “I would come back from class and I’d hang out with him at the smoker’s pit just so I could have his company — even in the cold.”
And while his friends described him as a “goofball,” De Groot had a serious side too. As an engineering student, class and hard work were an important part of his life.
“He had his head on straight,” said Baas. “He knew there’s a time for fun and a time for work. He kind of flew by the seat of his pants, but he never had his priorities messed up.”
Kiefer said that De Groot always went out of his way to help other people.
“Freshman year I got in a car accident, and he came out in the blizzard, no problem,” he said. “He was the most generous person. In the three and a half years I knew him, he’d never asked for anything from me. He was the kid on the seat next to me trying to stay awake while I was driving through the night on spring break,” he said.
Bruins also highlighted De Groot’s generous spirit.
“There was never a time when I saw him ask for anything from anybody, because he was constantly thinking of other people,” she said. “If anyone needed their truck to move something, he would give them his truck.”
And while De Groot’s friends reflect on the memories of his life, they also recognize a hole left in their lives now that he’s passed away.
“I notice he’s gone every single day,” said Kiefer. “When I come home from school and he’s not sitting on the couch, seeing him on campus … you just miss everything about him. They say that it gets better with time — it’s going to take a long time.”
“There’s not a day that’s going to go by that we won’t miss him,” said Hensen. “It’s great to remember Eric, but it’s also going to take time not to feel that sadness and sorrow. He was an amazing brother in Christ, an amazing individual and an amazing friend.”
De Groot’s friends said they learned a lot about the importance of relationships from watching the way he treated other people.
“It didn’t matter what was going on in his life, he would be quick to ask ‘what are you doing,’ ‘what’s going on,’ ‘what can I do to change your night around,’” Hensen said.
Baas and Hensen both said that De Groot’s death has caused them to think about their own attitudes toward others.
“After he was gone, I realize how important it is to treat people the way he treated them,” said Baas. “He was just all-around nice to people.”
“Taking time for people I think is something everyone should really cherish,” Hensen said. “Eric definitely knew that. He took that to heart. The relationships and the time that you spend with people mean a lot more than petty little things we’re not going to remember in a week.”