Hard to believe that a sweet friend passed away this week. Younger than I am. Life can be so cruel sometimes. I wanted to share a little about this special friend. You see, I knew a side to Stuart that many did not know. Our friendship began many years ago, and those memories are what are helping me get through this difficult time.
Stuart always had a smile on his face. He had this shimmering blue/grey eyes that could melt your heart just by looking into them. Many know and remember Stuart as a party guy. He liked to drink. He liked to spend time with friends. He liked to be goofy.
Many people never saw the side of Stuart I knew. I don’t know if it’s because I was young and naive or because he saw me as a “church girl”, but the times I spent with Stuart Kerley were like no one else’s.
When Stuart and I were friends, we just spent our time together roaming around. Either at my home or his, we would just hang out – lots of walks, lots of TV, and even a little mud (Stuart lived on some land and actually got me to spend time outside on it).
I remember the summer we were “dating.” I put that in quotes because Stuart and I were just kids. Walking around, holding hands, and stealing the occasional kiss from one another. Our relationship was very innocent. I remember going off to a Summer Mission Retreat before cell phones. Every night, I would steal away to the PAY PHONE, to call him. It was hard to not see someone for a week when you were used to spending all your waking time with him. So the pay phone was our connection to one another. And we both looked forward to that call – if only to hear the other’s voice.
The thing I love most about Stuart is that there was no pressure from him – about anything. Knowing that I wasn’t into the partying scene in high school, he actually chose to NOT party around me. Shocking, I know, but there were times in Stuart’s life when he was just a kid – not trying to grow up too quickly – or be too cool.
He came to church with me. We talked about God and heaven. And it made me feel good to know that he was comfortable enough with my family and me to come to church with us. Being 16 and having a boyfriend was tough enough – knowing he cared about me enough to actually come to church with me still to this day leaves an impression on me.
Our friendship was deeper than what it appeared on the surface. After we drifted a part “romance” wise, we were still friends. He still came to church with me. We still spent time together. Just not as often as we used it. I became friends with his brother, Shawn. And both of these guys are family to me. I love them both tremendously.
Of course, like many do after high school, Stuart and I lost touch. But then, MySpace and Face Book emerged from the Internet world, and along with them came a reconnection. A reconnection I am so thankful to have made. Not only did I reconnect with one of the sweetest guys from my past, but I also go to know his sweet wife. Stuart was crazy about her. One day at his house I remember telling him, “She’s a keeper, Stuart.” And to see the love brimming from within just made me smile. His response, “Yeah, she’s pretty special. I love her a lot.”
It was really good to not only reconnect with Stuart, but also with his family. A few summers ago, our families spent some time together. Stuart and Crystal got to know my kiddos and husband. Stephen never new Stuart very well in High School. He is several years older than us. But he didn’t hesitate to get to know Stuart, the adult. And now Stephen can call Stuart his friend. His goofy, silly, crazy friend.
It’s still hard to believe that he’s really gone. No matter how busy life got, I always talked to him at Christmas – if just to say Merry Christmas. This Christmas is going to be hard on all of us.
Of course, Stuart’s death is a reminder of us all to not take life for granted. And to tell those around us that we love them. All the time.