I will apologize in advance for the length. When I’m uncertain or unhappy, I write. And I need to write this for my own personal grief more than I need to edit myself to keep anybody’s attention.You’re welcome to read all of this.You’re also welcome to click out of this blog and go on about your day.
I'm hurting right now. It's a broken heart unlike anything I've ever experienced. Not more or less than others, just different. I lost a dear friend just over a week ago. He was involved in a head-on collision. Now he's gone - and I'm struggling with finding peace with it. I always send messages in times of loss about praying for somebody's peace. But I just don't have it right now.
I have been so fortunate in finding my circle of friends. Females and males. My circle may be small, but it's everything I need. Outside of my family, these people are my world. Patrick was part of my circle. And I feel like my circle is no longer complete. I keep getting this visual of water rushing out of a dam or sand falling through my hands. It makes sense, I guess. Water and sand - the beach. That's where we met Patrick in 2017.
It was Gulf Coast Jam weekend in Panama City Beach. It's an annual trip I've been lucky to take with some wonderful women. It has always been that week to unwind. Drink some beer. Listen to country music. Get some sun on the beach. Eat a ton of food. Not have to worry about doctor appointments or school pick-up's. More than anything, I get to laugh and make memories with my girlfriends. Rendy Lovelady is the mastermind behind this huge three day beach festival that attracts people from all over the world. He and I met and instantly became friends. He graciously hosts us each year and because of Rendy, I met Patrick. I'm giving you a lot of details here because these little tidbits are all part of this huge gaping hole in my heart.
Gulf Coast Jam 2017. Labor Day Weekend. My girlfriends and I opted for the pool that day. There was a group of people there also enjoying the pool. Three couples and a guy by himself. The men were tossing a football in the pool. I noticed Patrick immediately. He was a big guy with a loud laugh and a horrible throwing arm. My friend Kinsey was trying to nap on a lounge chair at the end of the pool. Every time Patrick threw the football, Kinsey got smacked in the head. He apologized, but Kins was irritated. And it's girl code to be irritated too. Later that night, I was judging a talent show at Ms. Newby's. The winner would get to perform on the main stage at Gulf Coast Jam. That's where I met Chris Meyer. He and Rendy are business associates and friends. And Chris invited Patrick and the others down for the festival. They're all from Ohio and it was obvious that this was a very close-knit squad.
As the talent show is rocking along, I see the Ohio crowd. I recognized them from the pool. We actually met Patrick that night. Big dude. Loud. Smart ass for sure. That's where the friendship started. We all stayed in the same condo so we saw a good bit of him that weekend. At the festival, he actually held a spot for us close to the stage. He was the life of the party. The guy actually wore a pair of shorts that his wife made for him (his request, of course). The shorts were made of a bunch of Crown Royal bags. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Crown Royal shorts and a big American Flag tank top. It was quite the sight.
It was a fun weekend. My girlfriends and I credit Patrick for a lot of that. He was just a great guy. We spent the days in the pool talking about our kids and our lives. We discussed our jobs and our families. We talked about food and football. We shared our love of country music. He had been in the Navy. He loved Nascar. He loved camping with his son. Our entire girlfriend group loved our time spent with Patrick. And we all exchanged numbers with him before we left. I never thought that we would ever talk to him, but Patrick was awesome about keeping in touch with us. We even added him to our "Girls Only" Snapchat group. He was honored...haha.
Patrick and I spoke almost every single day for months. I don't know how we became such great friends. We got each other through some really rough times. We fought about things. We counseled each other. We made each other laugh. We took breaks and didn't talk for months, but there were always text messages every few weeks - we just checked in and up with each other. Friendships like this are unique. They're blessings, really. Patrick was a blessing in my life. After my brain surgery in March, he sent flowers. They were tulips, my absolute favorite. When I told him he sent my favorite flower he reminded me that I had mentioned that in a conversation. I couldn't even remember saying that. He checked on me daily - just letting me ramble about things. I had cabin fever and just needed to talk, I guess. He cared about people. That big loud dude was a softy at heart.
Patrick was better about keeping in touch than I was. But he reached out to me the day before he died. We talked for a little less than an hour. We made plans to finally get to hang out again - possibly a meeting in Nashville because it was in the middle. He was planning to help his best friend's wife spread his ashes later this month. He talked about the loss of his best friend and the loss of his dad inspiring him to get healthy because he wanted to be there for his little boy for a long long time. He reminded me that I was tough and could handle anything. I reminded him that he was a good father and friend. He made me promise to send pictures from the beach because I was finally getting to go in just a few days. It had been months since we had talked. And now I know that the conversation was a blessing from God. I have thanked God every single day for that phone call. Why did that phone call happen one day before his death? Exactly. If you don't believe in a higher being when things like this happen, I just don't understand.
I got a call on Saturday, the day before we left for the beach. Patrick had been killed in a car accident. There were lots of tears that night. I watched UGA lose to South Carolina and thought, “yep…Patrick did that.” He was a huge Ohio State fan.
We were packed and on the road at 4 AM the next morning. We were on 85 South at probably about 4:45 AM. All of the sudden my entire navigation screen goes blank. I’m asking what in the heck is going on. Joy was saying maybe we should pull over. After about 20 seconds of darkness on the screen, Jenny says out loud, “Okay, Patrick. This isn’t funny. Turn the screen back on.” The screen immediately came to life again. Super weird, but comforting at the same time. I saw lots of “Patrickisms” while we were at the beach. I wondered if those things are always there and we just don’t see them. Or if they are really Godwinks to help us deal with death or bring us comfort and peace.
I've learned since his passing that the special invested friend he was to me and my girlfriends was EXACTLY what kind of friend he was to EVERYONE. I've read the messages on Facebook. He was incredible. He cared about people. He gave everything he had to everybody who needed it. He worked with veterans and was credited with saving several lives. He made people smile and laugh. He loved his life. He took pride in his job. He loved his country. And he loved his son. My heart aches at the thought of Patrick not being there to raise his son. He won't be there to hunt with him or give him a high-five after a game. I'm sick knowing that his little boy won't have his dad with him anymore.
Crying now as I type this. I miss him. I thought I would see him again. And I just can’t understand why God would take somebody who did so much good for others out of our lives. Still struggling with it. But I have faith in God’s plan and I’m leaning on that faith REALLY hard right now.
A great man is one who leaves others at a loss when he is gone - Paul Valery
Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Chris Meyer/Facebook