The church was full and the chatter was like old times. Handshakes with former offensive linemen. Smiles from a cheerleader or two. All from a simpler time and place.
It’s how and why we get together these days. Funerals for friends. A sad, slow procession until the last one is standing.
We are the Class of ’67, Allendale-Fairfax High School, and we are one soul shy today. Glen Kinard, the ever-smiling, somewhat precocious, always amusing Glen Kinard is dead, as hard as that is for all of us to believe.
We’ve lost a few to illness along the way, but they were not well and we knew it was coming. This came like a meteor strike, suddenly and totally unexpected. An allergic reaction to medication, the mumblers said. And like a bolt from the blue, it left a hole. In our hearts. In his family. In the world that we knew.
Not only have I known Glen since we were babies, we both attended the University of Georgia where it was always nice to see his home-grown grin as we melted into the larger world of college.
Like me, Glen liked to party. So much so that we drank beer on our way to take the SAT test early one Saturday morning. What the heck. We had a few in the cooler from the night before. We were 17. Enough said.
Little did we know that test could determine the rest of our lives. No matter. It was another good story we lived to laugh about.
And, Lord, Glen could tell a good story. He was an entrepreneurial soul from the get-go. Even in high school he always had a job and a few extra things going on the side. After college he came home with a degree in agriculture and that smile that never met a stranger. He grew watermelons, owned a restaurant and a liquor store and a used car lot and who knows what else.
These days he spent a lot of time at his place on Edisto Island, which happened to be close to his granddaughter, Emorie. And that’s where he died. Sunday morning. Sixty-four years old. A number that used to sound old. It doesn’t any more. It simply sounds too young to die.
As we filed out of the church, we all hugged and said we had to stop meeting like this. But we will, and we all know it.
I was blessed to grow up with some of the best people on the planet, and I’m lucky to still count them as friends. But on days like this, I wish I didn’t love them so much.