In the three days since a childhood friend of mine died, I’ve been trying to understand why I feel such a great sense of loss for someone I haven’t had a real conversation with in decades.
I think it’s because I didn’t ever tell him goodbye properly—and now I’ll never have the chance.
While the loss of his family and close friends is immeasurably greater, those of us who had Kevin in our life for a shorter time are also grappling for footing after his sudden exit from this world. He was skiing at Breckenridge with his family Monday (something they’ve surely done countless times before), when he hit a tree and died. Just like that his time came to an end.
Kevin Pitts and I met in middle school. He lived in the same neighborhood as several of my other close friends at the time and we shared interests like drama, debate, newspaper and French at school. It’s a friendship I don’t remember starting, it’s just feels like the comfort and love between us were always there.
Handsome and kind, he had his share of young women in his life, but they weren’t there for the same reason I was. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Kevin played a very important role in my adolescence: he was a brother to me when I needed one the most.
My brother, Mark, was a sensitive boy who looked out for his little sister as best he could in a world that wasn’t kind to him. He took his own life when he was 15 and I was 12.
At a time when my own family felt so empty, the Pitts home was full to the brim. His parents, Tom and Ena, were gregarious and full of Southern Charm. Erin, a year younger than Kevin, always had a welcome smile on her face and listened to me long after even the most gracious person would be expected to.
I loved them all, but Kevin was special.
I didn’t realize it at the time, and I still don’t know exactly how he did it, but Kevin always made me feel better.
Maybe it was his silly sense of humor (he had a t-shirt printed up that said “My Parents are the Pitts”).
Maybe it was the lightness of his being (he even seemed to walk on tip toes).
Maybe it was the way you could tell him anything and he was always on your side.
Maybe it was that fabulous hair.
Whatever it was about him, Kevin always made me feel that with people like him in it, the world was indeed a good place.
I never thanked him for that, and now I’ll never be able to. The problem is you rarely know when you are saying goodbye to someone for the last time. If you did know it was the last time you would talk, you would tell them things. You would tell him you are glad you met each other in the first place. You would tell her that you are thankful for the time you spent together. If it was the last time you were seeing your friend, you would say “I Love You.” That’s what you would do if you knew—but you don’t.
So I’m telling his wife and his children and his Mom and his sister and anyone else who cares to read this. But in my deepest heart I still really, really wish I could tell him myself.