On Friday I received a call from a good friend, my best friend, who lives in Charleston, SC. He called on his way out of town with his wife Monica and two little boys Garris and Fuller ages seven and six. Keith called to wish me a happy 43rd Birthday a day early as they were heading up to Asheville, NC with some friends for a camping trip.
We missed each other, but I received his message and on the way to dinner on Saturday night my wife and I talked about Keith and his family as we are now just 4 weeks away from starting our own.
It’s funny about good friends. Close friends. Even though you might see each other only a few times a year as work, life, travel or in our case moving more than 1,300 miles away, conspire to keep you apart. No matter, they are never really far from your thoughts or your heart. Those “ties” are formed long, long ago – and no matter how much time passes – they are unbreakable.
Keith has taken to running recently, and we have been talking about running this spring together at the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston. A 10K that has been on my “to-do” list for almost a decade. We have been talking about that race and Keith’s progress a lot recently – and I have been so very proud of him – again from half a country away.
Monday night the phone at the house rang with an (843) area code number that I did not recognize. I had been outside with Kayla and was unable to get to the phone before the ringing stopped. My parents who still live in Charleston are now into their 80’s. Still doing great, still very active – but for some reason I got a terrible feeling that something was wrong.
I reached for my mobile phone to see if I had that number on file and there was an e-mail from another good friend in Charleston Jay Hart who I have known for more than 20 years. There had been a terrible accident in Asheville and Keith’s wife Monica had passed away on Monday.
Monica who suffered from epilepsy apparently had a seizure or perhaps simply slipped and fell near the river where they were camping. We will never really know what exactly happened – but no matter – the fact is my best friend lost his wife and mother of his two boys in the blink of an eye.
I spoke to Keith last night and the voice that I have heard so many times since we met as young, rather clueless men more than two decades ago was again on the line. As I searched for the right words all I could manage to say was how sorry I was and how much I loved him.
In the hours since I have a tremendous heartache that I have no idea how to manage. Thoughts of happier times keep fighting with all of the trials and tribulations we have gone through over the years.
There are snippets from the first time we met and Keith invited me to Thanksgiving Dinner with his family two days later.
A camping trip of our own to Wadmalaw Island with Jay, that somehow ended up at Edisto Beach. I’m pretty sure there were girls involved.
Keith standing up for me at my wedding. Me standing up for him and Monica shortly thereafter.
Garris asking me to read him a bedtime story squished next to him in his little boy bed ….
So now I will be making my way to Charleston, SC later today – returning to the very church where Keith, Monica, family and friends celebrated the start of their life together a little less than 10 years ago.
For a somewhat enlightened, educated man, I feel like I don’t know a damn thing today. Nothing I thought to be true 24 hours ago, makes any sense to me whatsoever right now.
All I know is the place I need to be is next to my good friend, because I know if the situation were reversed his bags would be in my foyer right now and his voice in my house telling me how sorry he was and how much he loved me.