(Pictured left to right: John Kelly, Andy Epstein, me — props to Sarah Ray for the yearbook photo)
In just over two months, I’ll be 36 years old. While this birthday will mean I’ve now spent half my life outside of high school, it’s not like I’m old. There will always be more time, right?
But after my good high school friend John Kelly died suddenly, I’m reminded that time is absolutely the most important thing we have. Money is great, but I’ve always been able to replenish money easier than time.
Why do I mention time? Four years ago, while coming back from a Phoenix to Chicago round trip drive, my wife and I stopped in Albuquerque. We were tired, cranky, hungry, and eager to finish the last leg of our trip. While we arrived in town with plenty of time to have dinner and relax before bed, for whatever reason we felt like doing neither.
So, while knowing this chance likely wouldn’t be repeated, I didn’t call my old friend John Kelly and ask to hang out at his house. I knew he lived in town, I had his number, and we regularly talked on Facebook, but the hassle of driving again was too much.
The next morning on our way out of town, I messaged John to say hello. Almost immediately, he invited me over that night and said he wished I had called him the day before, as his family (I’ve only met his first step kid Peyton and his first biological child Jordyn), including his wife, their step kids, and I think one of their kids hadn’t had much to do.
That was the last time John and I were ever in the same town. He passed before I ever saw him again.
It had been years, over a decade, since John and I had hung out. While we continued to hang out during community college (him at Whatcom, me at Highline), he soon had a baby on the way and a wife to make happy, and I left for WSU after two years in community college. Since then, he’d been in the Army, moved out of WA to NM, gotten divorced and remarried, and become a well-regarded police officer. I’d spent my 20s mostly in AZ, working on Contact/kontakt, dropping out of grad school, writing stupid things on Twitter, learning how to run, and meeting the girl I’d later marry.
Such different life choices, we’d made. Such stories we’d have to share and laugh about. Such good times we could have had and reminisced. I figured there would be more time.
After hearing of his passing and seeing the below video, our former basketball coach (now principal at our rival high school where most of John’s junior high friends went) Mike Albrecht summed it up nicely, saying “John was a great kid and sounds like a better man.”
I loved John Kelly the kid like a brother, wish I had made the time to know John Kelly the man.