Nothing can prepare you for that unexpected phone call. The one that rouses you out of a deep sleep and instantly instills gut-wrenching worry for what is to come. On Sunday, Steven and I received one of those calls. I will probably never forget that moment. The moment when you know your husband's life, and therefore yours, will never be the same.
You see, Steven's best friend passed away that morning. He was 35 years old.
I don't really want to get into details, because it's not the details that matter. It's the lifelong friendship that came to an end that fateful morning that matters.
Steven and, we'll call him J, grew up together. They were next door neighbors, and in fact, their parents still are. J moved in next door when Steven was 5 and he was 8. They've been inseparable ever since.
Last summer, they started an antiques and collectibles business. As if they didn't talk on the phone enough already, this business venture meant 3-5 phone calls to each other a day. I think that's more than Steven ever talked to me on the phone! It's always been a running joke that if J's phone wasn't currently dead, it was on the verge of dying, so if you couldn't get through, just try back later. I don't know why he couldn't ever keep his phone charged. :)
J was one of Steven's groomsmen in our wedding (that's him on Steven's left).
He loved to be the center of attention and was always the life of the party. A party just wasn't a party without J.
He loved a lot of things, but nothing as much as Appalachian State Football. He was truly App State's biggest fan. (Here they are with Armanti Edwards, a former App QB who now plays for the Carolina Panthers.)
Saturdays in the fall were spent aboard The Quad Squad bus.
It was a rare occasion that you found J without a visor on.
Words are eluding me when it comes to J and his fiancé. It was she who called us that morning and it is she who I most feel for in this whole, awful, nightmare of a situation. They were supposed to get married in Las Vegas on July 27th, but J got sick so they had to cancel. Even though it wasn't official, I think they were already married in their hearts, and had been for quite a while.
Tailgating before an App State football game, J's favorite pastime.
At a tapas bar opening last year.
In Wrightsville Beach, NC last year after the ASU vs. ECU game.
J wasn't just a friend to Steven. He was a partner in crime. He was a source of entertainment (ask anyone who knew him and I bet one of the first words they would use to describe him would be entertaining). He was Steven's friend of 27 years. You can't just replace someone who's seen you through numerous stages of life, both the good and the bad, and remained your close ally through it all.
We spent a ton of time with J over the years, as other friends came and went. He wasn't one of those friends that you tried to make time for every now and then. He was part of our everyday lives. We saw him most every weekend and went on several trips a year with him and his fiancé, sometimes with other friends and sometimes just the four of us.
Us at Disney World last December.
J really didn't want to take his picture with Dale, but Dale is one persuasive chipmunk!
Oh Mickey, how J loved you.
The past 2 days have been hard. Not just because we lost a dear friend, but because it was unexpected. It's like getting your heart ripped out and trying to find a way to live without it. There really isn't a way. There's just taking one day at a time and figuring it out as you go. As hard as this is for me personally, it's doubly hard knowing how much Steven is suffering. How much he will always miss J and how no one can ever replace him. How there will always be this huge hole in our lives. How Appalachian Football tailgating and games will never be quite as much fun. We're dedicating this football season to J and will fly his logo (see first image) on a flag above our bus.
You're forever in our hearts, J. We love and miss you.