Last week, I lost my first cousin Rabun “Buddy” White and two weeks before that, his wife Pearl “Skipper” White.
It is one of those sad situations that caught our family totally off guard. Both of them had pneumonia and were diagnosed with COVID-19.
To be honest, I’m still in a state of shock about their passing. It just doesn’t seem real.
Buddy was like an older brother to me, especially when I was growing up. I tried extremely hard back then to emulate him and he and his family have always been such an important part of my life.
I feel blessed in a lot of ways that I grew up with family on both Dad and Mother’s side that cared about each other. There was hardly a week that would go by that we were not visiting kin folks or they were at our house.
Over the years I have written many columns about my relatives, including Buddy, and he always got a kick out of reading them.
Buddy had one of the best work ethics of anyone I have ever known. He did not retire until a few years ago, when he reached 80 years old. He didn’t want to retire; he just accepted that he was no longer able to do the quality work he was known for.
We have always been close. Because of the pandemic, we were limited on being able to see each other, so we talked on the phone weekly. That is what shocked me so much when he and Skipper ended up in the hospital. I had just talked with him a few days earlier and he seemed to be alright.
This illness came on very quickly and I did manage to talk with him several times while he was in the hospital, but he was struggling to breathe. The rest of our conversations were by text.
I thought after Skipper passed away and he was put in rehab he would be alright; however, he continued to get worse.
To make matters worse, I could not go and see him again because of the pandemic.
He did not want to be resuscitated and became unresponsive two days before he passed.
Our conversations over the years centered around family and especially the “good ol’ days,” when all of our parents were still alive.
He loved my mother and often talked about the many times our families would get together and especially his Aunt Mary’s (my mother) potato salad. He grew up primarily in Youngstown and both Eddie and I would spend time in the summer with them.
His mother, Aunt Bonnie, loved Elvis Presley and we always went to the theater in Panama City for an Elvis movie when one was playing.
When we were over to see them, Buddy always included me in any of his outings. I learned to drive a motorcycle because of him and helped him work on his old cars. He raced round dirt track cars not far from where they lived.
When Skipper came into his life, she became part of the family. She was witty, always a lot of fun to be around with her antics, sayings and especially her whistling, something you don’t hear anymore.
We never ended a conversation that he did not say that he loved me. I knew he did, and I always responded that I loved him as well.
I am glad we could say that to each other. Both of us realized how important it is to tell the people that you love that you love them. That is the best memory of Buddy that I will have.
He was a good guy and will be missed by all of the folks that he loved and that loved him. Most importantly, Buddy and Skipper were Christians and active in their church.
I’m certain they are now together with family and there has been a great reunion in heaven.
So tell the people that you care about that you love them as often as you can, because like cousin Buddy and especially in these times, you never know what the future holds for them, or you.
Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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