When Your Best Friend Dies


I first began thinking about this in 1985.

For those who are familiar with Larry McMurtry‘s epic Lonesome Dove, you know the story. It’s a story of two rough-and-tumble ex-Texas Rangers, who together, live out a life of adventure, love, tragedy and a shared vision of what life really should be.

Ultimately, Augustus McCrae (Robert Duvall) dies with Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) by his side. Anyone who doesn’t cry throughout the final hour of the mini-series is a tougher man than me.

The “best friend” relationship is truly special. There’s only one best friend. I wouldn’t trade mine for all the tea in China. This is what I love about my best-friend relationship:

Augustus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call

This is a photo I truly treasure. On a recent weekend outing, my best friend and I came across this replica sign from Lonesome Dove. We both love it.

  • We have no secrets.
  • We have each other’s back – always.
  • Every time we’re together, we laugh until we hurt.
  • He is my cheerleader, and I am his.
  • Loyalty, truth and transparent honesty are the things we value most.
  • If one of us screws up, it’s okay.
  • And even though it’s unspoken between us, we’ve both realized our time on earth is short, and we’ve determined to leave the past behind, look ahead and make the most of what we have left.

Over the last few years I’ve lost a parent, a grandparent and many older friends who were my childhood role models. Each loss is a unique hurt, but I’ve never lost a best friend.

A few weeks ago I made a quick trip to my hometown and as I passed through its outskirts I saw an older man sitting on his front porch. I immediately recognized him as one of those older role models. His name is Gene Gathright, and a few years back, he lost his best friend, Devane Baldridge. It would have been easy enough to pass by, but I turned the truck around, went back and visited with Gene for a few minutes. Moments matter, and I didn’t want this to be a moment lost.

Gene and Devane were almost inseparable. They fished together, played cards together, loafed together and partnered in a number of community service projects. They were a pair naturally inclined to mischief. They were best buddies.

Since Devane died, life for Gene has been different. It’s just an indescribable void.

Another unfortunate scenario has caused me to think even more about this lately. Two men I know well are in the process of saying goodbye. I’ve shared many good times with both these men at family outings and on the golf course. One is now preparing for life beyond earth. The other is wondering what life on earth will be like without him. It’s a hard goodbye.

Have you ever lost a best friend? Would you be willing to share that experience?


Over the next year I’m assembling a collection of unique stories about goodbyes between best friends, both men and women.

If you’ve lost a best friend, or know of someone who has, and would be willing to discuss it, please message me on WordPress or send me an email at: stevewatkins71@yahoo.com. I’m interested in stories in the U.S. and abroad.


A Response to the Reader Who Made Me the Angriest I’ve Ever Been

freedom of expression

“I hate rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.” ~ Capt. Woodrow F. Call in Lonesome Dove

Most who read my work, know that while I’m opinionated, I’m about the easiest going guy in the world.

I’m also a professional. I’ve been paid to write my entire life, have 170 collegiate hours, two degrees and have published articles in two professional journals on the topic of communications law and ethics. And as a professional I have a VERY thick skin.

My work is out there for public consumption. I put it out there every day, and with that, comes any reader’s right to make fair comment and criticism. I welcome your critique, in fact. Make a claim I’ve failed to be objective. Say I’m in error some way. I’m okay with that. I’m here to defend my work, and if you prove me wrong, I’ll acknowledge it and do the right thing.

But there’s one thing you don’t do to me, or to any other person in this profession if I’m around.

You don’t question my RIGHT to freely express an opinion or publish an objective article. You want to fight? Just question that right, and we can stand toe to toe until the last man stands.

At 4:30 a.m. today (August 23, 2012), I made an objective post resulting from an interview I did with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson was in my hometown yesterday leading a peaceful demonstration about the circumstances in which a young man committed suicide in the back of a patrol car. You may view that post here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-C6

Jesse Jackson is a lightning rod, especially here in the South. People love him, or hate him, and it’s all totally beside the point. When it comes to free speech, Jackson has a right to do what he damn well pleases, and so do I.

Following my typical pattern for a worthy story, I reposted during lunch for the benefit of those who might have missed it in the early morning.

And moments later, a reader publicly posts on Facebook: “…no need to keep stirring this mess up,  Steve.”

He sucker punched me.

I turned red, and actually felt my body twitching. My blood boiled. Them’s fightin’ words.

It’s the one thing you don’t say to me. This mess, dear reader, is one of the critical issues of our time, and it’s now in my backyard, and in yours. Bury your head in the ground. It won’t solve the problem. It won’t go away.

It would have been so much better if you had just questioned the legitimacy of the story. We could have enjoyed a civil debate, as men should, and likely, would have come to terms to simply agree to disagree. But rather, you questioned my very right to freely express. We live in America, do we not?

FYI, critical reader, the messy post to which you refer, was read by more than 200 people on five continents, and was Google-searched internationally more than 30 times. I can make a case it had some redeeming value.

But the mess isn’t the issue here, sir. Forget the “messy” content that makes you so uneasy. (Though I guess you’re right in some regard: It would have been so much better if Woodward and Bernstein had avoided that whole Watergate thing altogether. It was SOOO messy.)

Step back, critical reader, take a breath, and remember that thing we call the First Amendment. I believe it has something to say about a thing we call freedom of expression.

And so I’ll express what I damn well please.

If it makes you uncomfortable, I’m glad. Black people and white people are at odds in this town for no good reason. I hope it makes us all squirm.


Why William Wallace, Maximus, Gus McRae and Jack Black Would be the Perfect Church Leadership

I’m a moderately passionate movie buff and have a handful of movies, that  probably like you, I could watch endlessly.

Mostly I’m drawn to movies that have strong thematic characters. Among my favorites are Braveheart, Gladiator, Lonesome Dove and School of Rock. Any time I watch one of these movies, my own personality quirks will inevitably cause me to unconsciously emulate  one of these characters for several days after watching. Too bad for my family that since I watched School of Rock last night I’ll be acting like Jack Black for a few days.

I love these four movies for their strong characters.

In Braveheart, William Wallace was passionate for the cause of freedom and all that was right. Passionate to the degree that he would lead and inspire an army of men, each willing to give their life for the cause of freedom, and to crush the tyranny of oppression that made men less than who God meant for them to be.

In Gladiator, Maximus Decimus Meridius was passionate for the cause of truth. He was visionary in his own right, yet loyal to the point of death to those he served. He was a protector of family, community and democracy. Russell Crowe was magnificent in his portrayal of Maximus.

Lonesome Dove is my all-time favorite book and movie. Watch it sometime when you have a spare six hours. Augustus McRae was passionate about relationships and adventure. Even in his death, Gus challenged and inspired his best friend to have one last adventure that would teach him lessons to take with him for the rest of his life.

Jack Black’s “School of Rock” may not seem to quite fit in to this mix, but for me, it’s the perfect fourth pillar. In School of  Rock,  Black portrays the character of Dewey Finn, a washed-up wanna be rocker who misrepresents himself to become a substitute teacher in an upscale private school for young kids. He abandons the traditional curriculum and inspires the kids to tap into their musical abilities to form an awesome group. Finn was passionate beyond measure about helping the kids find their musical abilities. I love the passion he portrays in this movie.

So these four characters exhibit passion for freedom, expression of truth, loyalty, relationships, adventure and even a passion for passion.

If I could form the perfect church, I’d make these four guys Elders. I could line up with the things for which they stand.

Here’s an interesting extreme that’s really not so extreme.

The New Testament tells us that one of the primary characteristics of Jesus was His meekness. You mean to tell me the Savior of the World was meek?

At first thought, you might think of a mouse in a corner hiding from the world. That’s how I always thought of “meek” until some recent study.

Meekness is defined as humility … and their is great strength in humility. It takes strength, my friends, to keep our mouth closed sometimes. I battle with it every day. There is great power and strength in “meekness.” There is great wisdom in “meekness.” And there is a great example for others in our “meekness.”

However it is that you do “church” today, my friends, praise Jesus.

He loves you with passion beyond measure.