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Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Smile That Won't Fade

Death is inevitable.

It fascinates me that none of us will avoid it. It is the one certainty. I suppose if it's boiled down, death is change and change is the only guarantee in life. As someone once said, change is good, and I hate it.

Death is a stranger in my house. I'm 46 and I've only lost 3 of 4 grandparents. I know people that have lost that many people in less than a year. I'm lucky, I suppose. I'm also completely unprepared for it. I mean, I'm in my mid-40s and haven't dealt with real loss. If God deals one of my loved ones the Ace of Spades, how will I face that?

I'm not ready.

Recently, Mike Smith passed, unexpectedly. A high school friend, he was known as Smiley. He was, arguably, the nicest person you could ever meet. Thus, the nickname. Smiley and I didn't keep up. We probably spoke once in the last 20 years. However, it seems apropos to share my favorite memory.

1987. My future wife lived in Florida. I lived in Illinois. Smiley and Red (another high school buddy) planned to move to Florida because we were 20 years old and moving to Florida seemed fun. Why not. They planned an exploratory excursion down to the Sunshine State and I would tag along, help with gas, see my future wife and fly back. You can do that when you're 20.

Days before we leave, they deliver the news. We ain't going.

"What do you mean you're not going?"

Can't see it. 

No use in playing out the argument. They're not going. End of story. But screw that, not the end. I got a future wife waiting. I can take a bus. Danny and Coady drop me off at an East St. Louis bus station sometime close to midnight. I remember it clearly because there was steam coming out of the storm sewers and I was scared shitless.

30 hours later, I arrive at Sanibel Island.

Day 2-ish after arrival, my future wife gets a call. It's Smiley. Or Red. Maybe both, I don't remember. They want to know what her address is. Like exactly where she lives because they want to send her something. It's a PO Box.

No, what's your address? 


Just cause. Like where do you live exactly. 


For next week, Smiley and Red slept on the couch. Of course we let them in. They were supposed to look for a place to live, for work. Instead, they sat on the couch quizzing each other with random questions to prove who was smarter. Yeah, I was pissed the first day. But truth be told, that trip never would've been the same without them. It was a hell of lot more fun with them on couch.

Smiley warmed a lot of lives. I was not immune.

He will be missed.


  1. It's so hard to lose a friend. I'm glad that he had you to write this beautiful tribute.

    I don't have any words of wisdom -- just know that I'm sending love to you and your family.

    He has a sweet smile.

  2. Hey Tony,
    My Mom passed last Tuesday. 95. you can check the FB, but hell, we've been more or less "prepared" for 15 years. But you never get "ready". And that's good. What kind or people would we be if we were "ready?"
    Someone wrote me that it's the sign of a great soul--to pass quickly. And it was--quick, easy, without pain. Unexpected.
    When it comes to a loved one? Maybe it doesn get any easier than that...TK

  3. Hey Bert, great story about Smiley. Nothing you can do to prepare for the loss of a loved one. Time heals all wounds, but it won't fill the hole in your heart. Keep the memories close. I have lots of memories of Mike even though we had not spoken in years also.

  4. I know all of you have been through some great loss. My heart aches for you.