“Weddings are optional. Funerals are mandatory.”- Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani
It’s been a weird week, and I’m completely freaking exhausted.
Most weeks here on abk, I live in FantasyLand, focused on pushing limits, maximizing potential, and turning dreams into reality. However, I am not a dope, and I am well aware that painful reality is ever present or often just around the corner. It’s happened to me before, and last week it happened to one of my best friends. And though I choose to incessantly focus on the positive, these moments are real and change peoples’ lives forever.
One of my lifelong pals, Kevin Byrum aka Caveman, lost his mom 10 days ago. I received the news last Thursday morning while I was sitting at a picnic table in Moab, Utah, some 2,000 miles away. After offering a quick word, I began thinking how I could get to Monroe, NC for the funeral/celebration of her life.
Due to some logistical challenges, I couldn’t just fly from Moab to Charlotte. I would need to drive and detour through Mississippi. I figured I could make it to North Carolina by midday Monday, so Friday morning I set off. Utah to New Mexico. New Mexico to Louisiana. Louisiana to Georgia (via Mississippi). Georgia to Monroe, North Carolina, arriving 10 minutes late to the funeral after breaking every traffic law in the Carolinas.
The service was very nice, and then our group of friends had a pool party immediately after to celebrate our friendship and Mrs. Byrum’s life. We played, laughed, reminisced, and had an excellent time, but we also checked in on each other. Not like “how are you doing?” Nah, more like “YO, FOR REAL…HOW ARE YOU DOING?”
This group of 37 year olds that has dwindled over the years has endured tragedy after tragedy. Parents dying, suicide, best friends going WAY too soon, low points, really low points, and so on. As much as I like to be a walking example for positivity, I must not forget that bad things do happen and we MUST check in on each other. Like really check in. Even with the strong ones like Caveman. Especially with the strong ones like Caveman.
I know it’s 2019 and I harp on that a lot, but I’m still a face to face kind of guy. A text, email, or social media message can kind of sort of get the job done, but sometimes it’s not enough.
If I’ve learned anything over the past five years, what we visually see on the surface is so often only the tiniest portion of the picture, and sometimes it is complete and utter bullshit. Sometimes what people need regardless of what social media post they shared yesterday is just an in person deep dive. “You good? Like, you for real good?”
Keep that in mind going forward. Make an extra FaceTime call or in person visit if you can. Make sure those loved ones know you love them. I had some good conversations this week, and it made me feel good that everyone was diving a little deeper. Because this too shall pass, but until then…
Mrs. Byrum was a sweet, simple soul and a mother to our entire crew for the better part of 35 years. I have plenty of stories about her that make me smile, but one really sticks with me. A couple of years ago as I was nearing my first NYC Marathon, an envelope showed up in the mail about ten days prior to race day. It was from Mrs. Byrum, and it contained a check to Team Arthritis Foundation supporting my upcoming race and lifelong battle with arthritis. To my knowledge, she was not a woman of tremendous financial wealth, and this gesture just blew me away.
Love comes in the strangest packages. Sometimes it’s letting someone go. Sometimes it’s flowers, chocolates, hugs, and kisses. And other times it’s a note inside a tiny envelope signed simply, “Betsy Byrum”.
Have a great week.- Benj
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2 thoughts on “When Friends are Family”
What a nice and genuine expression of love and friendship towards Kevin and his mother. I did not know Mrs. Byrum, but I know that she raised a very nice son in Kevin. I would say that he’s blessed to have such a nice group of friends, and one such as you.
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Thank you for the kind words!