Last week, the kind of week that puts things in perspective, my wife and I buried my longest-known, oldest best friend. We met at 16. We had so much in common we could or should have been brothers. Each of us had brothers, but the fact is, he and I were closer. There is virtually nothing we did not know about one another. The 50-year relationship was dominated by unending loyalty and most of all, laughter. On his way to play golf, he collapsed with a heart attack and died. Just like that. No warnings. No health scares. Nothing. He was tall and thin and athletic, but his lifestyle had the speedometer frozen at 90 mph most of the time. A stress test would have saved his life, but he had not been able to find the time for one even though he was retired. I’ve missed being able to joke with him about the funeral, where I was honored to give his eulogy. I had some lines I wanted to deliver but couldn’t because truthfully, only he and I would have found them funny, under the circumstances. I can honestly say a harsh, mean word never passed between us in 50 years. We started out playing basketball together. Later, we hunted, fished, rode horses and sailed. We served on the board of trustees of the school we attended. His sense of loyalty and gratitude toward the school and how it had positively affected his life was so great he served on the board for almost 35 years. He was from New England like me, but fit in better as a Texan. He loved visiting me in Fort Worth, sometimes coming for a couple of days and then staying for weeks. His wake and funeral in his small New Hampshire town had all the themes that dominate life, love, death, Shakespeare, and every good country song ever written. As my wife and I drove home – quite frankly – cackling and crying in laughter over a few mysterious and bizarre events at his wake and funeral, in my mind I was writing the lyrics to a damned good country song. And then a bad week got worse. Or I guess you could say the week got worse, but heaven got rowdy. George Jones died. There is a silver lining in all of these tragic things. There’s no better way to grieve and laugh and cry all at once than listening to George Jones for a week. So that’s what I have done. All Jones. All day. All the time. When people live a full life and love it ‘til the end you really don’t have to stop loving them today. You can love and laugh with them for eternity.
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