Quote of the Day: “I am a part of all that I have met.” –Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses
A Goula boy, Johnny Smith, PHS Class of 1988, Pascagoula Gulf League champion 1981, trumpet player, Marine, childhood friend of TB, and no telling what else died this morning in Atlanta, Georgia, with his Mother at his side. I haven’t seen Johnny since our class reunion back in 1998. Before that we ran into each other by happenstance in Starkville, Mississippi, at a party where I heard about him getting in a fight earlier that day in his Ole Miss Band uniform and clocking some guy with his trumpet. Before that, I can’t even say.
Johnny and I were teammates on Mississippi Chemical in 1981 and spent a lot of time with each other from ages 10-12. I was obsessed with sports while Johnny was interested in, well, everything. He understood music, computers, and pool tables. He could handle a fishing pole, paddle a canoe and watch The Exorcist in the middle of the night without fear. He liked to stay up all night. He liked to roam the secret passageways of his neighborhood tormenting his buddies. We lost touch when we went to junior high and really didn’t come into contact much between 1982 and that meeting in Starkville. But like many of the people who have shared stories on this site, we seemed to pick up our conversation that evening where we’d left off 10 years before. The same thing happened at our reunion in 1998. I was, and am still hacked that Johnny didn’t show for our 20th, our last chance to catch up.
I feel a little undeserving, a little self indulgent in grieving for Johnny to the degree I am. So many more people have more dearly earned their tears today. So many more people knew him during all those years that he and I lived on separate paths. But I can’t think about him and the random, tragic way his life was cut short without choking back the tears that I know he would never understand. I’m sad for Johnny. I can’t even express how I feel for his Mother. And I’m sorry for myself. It’s not that I would go back and change anything. It’s not like we had a falling out. Its just that his passing highlights the impossibility of knowing well all the good people I wish I could. There’s just not time in this life. Few people are as smart or as tough or as funny as Johnny Smith. And there damn sure wasn’t enough time for him to share those traits with those of us who knew him.